Trai orders telecom firms to stop spam with blockchain tech

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New Delhi: the telecommunications regulator has asked operators to adopt blockchain technology to ensure that only registered telemarketers have access to telephone databases and that the user’s consent to receive such communication is explicitly recorded.

The regulator has asked telecommunications service providers to use distributed accounting technology to control the flow of commercial communication on their networks in its Customer Preference Regulations of Telecom Commercial Communication, 2018. The rules were made public on Thursday.

A distributed ledger, or Blockchain, is essentially a collection of records where each person who accesses also has a copy. But the participants have to agree to make a change in the database.

Since blockchain protects information cryptographically by using “keys” and signatures to control who can do what within the shared ledger, only registered telemarketers can perform certain functions.

Last September, Trai had published a consultation document in which he sought comments on how to create a system to register telemarketers and improve the system for repairing complaints.

This was caused by the fact that the so-called spam persisted despite restrictions on telemarketers as people are not aware of the implications of sharing numbers and the absence of a robust mechanism to register consent.

“This is a step in the right direction by Trai, Blockchain can effectively create a signature or a hash of an asset and instead of transmitting that complete digital asset, in this case the phone number, you can only put the hash in that database that the registered telemarketer can access, it will be like a virtual token of that digital asset, Blockchain can protect this database, but in this case you also need security at the point of origin of the data and before storing it in the ledger, that is, ensuring that there is no leakage at the end of the telecommunication service provider that generates the number, “said Ajeet Khurana, former director of the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Committee of the Internet and Mobile Association of India.

The rules issued by the regulator establish that companies wishing to communicate with interested users must confirm their identity through a header registered in their name.

In the event that the access provider fails to stop unsolicited commercial communication, a penalty of up to ₹ 50 lakh per month will be applied.

Unscrupulous telemarketers often override the subscriber’s stated preference by claiming consent that they may have obtained surreptitiously.

Under the new rules, access providers must now provide the facility to digitally register and revoke the consent of subscribers.

However, the telecommunications industry is concerned that there has not been a cost-benefit analysis of this regulation at a time when the industry faces financial stress.

“We remain concerned about whether the regulation addresses the origination problems of unregistered telemarketing calls that are not registered, and we are reviewing the regulation to see if this is adequately addressed,” said Rajan Mathews, CEO of the Association of Mobile Operators of India ( COAI).

“The time frame for implementation, especially given the requirement to implement distributed accounting technology, which has not been implemented by any other regulator, seems too strict and difficult to achieve,” said Mathews.