New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has issued draft guidelines to curb unwanted phone calls and text messages using blockchain technology. Mint takes a look at the regulator’s plan and how it will help.

What are spam calls and SMSes? Is it really such a huge problem?

Unsolicited calls and SMSes are not just annoying but are also a threat, with several cases of unscrupulous elements sending shady investment tips. Trai has taken many steps to try and protect consumers but has accepted that the problem is far from being under control. Though calls from registered telemarketers are largely controlled, unsolicited SMSes still persist and many customers who have registered their preference not to receive such SMS are still getting them.

What is the current system to tackle it?

Under the current regulatory framework, a customer can register to fully or partially block calls and SMSes from telemarketers using the toll-free code 1909. Trai has also launched a DND (do-not-disturb) app that helps detect and report spam through crowd-sourcing. If registered telemarketers violate norms, they have to pay penalties and in case of repeated non-compliance beyond a threshold, they are black-listed for two years and the telecom resources allocated to them are withdrawn.

What’s the issue with this system?

Miscreants are not easy to trace. Often, people aren’t aware of the implications of sharing numbers. There is no robust mechanism to record consent.

What does Trai propose to do now?

Trai wants to work with telecom operators to harness the power of blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, to ensure cryptographic security of data. So, although the information is available in a centrally accessible ledger, it is available only to registered telemarketers. Moreover, companies that want to communicate with interested users have to confirm their identity through a header registered in their name.

How will the new rules help you?

A user’s consent to receive such communication will be explicitly recorded by a third party and activated only after confirmation. The subscriber would also have an option to review or revoke his/her consent at any point of time. Currently, it takes seven days for the preferences registered by the customer to become effective. Through blockchain, this can happen in real time. complaints will also be resolved faster.

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