No need to regulate OTTs for now

The government does not feel the requirement of any regulatory intervention related to privacy and security issues of over-the-top (OTT) players at the moment, minister of State for Communications Sanjay Dhotre said.

“It is not an opportune moment to recommend a comprehensive regulatory framework for various aspects of services referred to as OTT services, beyond the extant laws and regulations prescribed presently,” Dhotre said in response to a question in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

“The matter may be looked into afresh when more clarity emerges in international jurisdictions particularly the study undertaken by ITU (International Telecommunication Union),” he said.

The minister’s comments come after the telecom regulator on Monday recommended the same following a consultation process on the need to regulate communication OTT service providers such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Google.

Dhotre added that the government does intercept the messages from time to time for security reasons, and are engaging with social media platforms such as WhatsApp which use encryption to secure communication on its platform.

“WhatsApp and many other social media applications make use of encryption technology and proprietary authentication protocols to secure messages. Security agencies….are not able to decrypt some of encrypted intercepted communication to readable format as there are various aspects involved in getting such encrypted communication in readable format,” the minister said.

“These aspects include technical, international relationship, legal and regulatory policy, commercial and security requirements etc,” he added.

“The Government regularly interacts with the stakeholders including social media providers to address the issues and implement the solution to resolve the issues arising from time to time keeping in view the security, services and developmental needs of the country.”

Telecom companies have for years been clamouring for regularity parity with such OTT apps, saying they were free network riders that eroded their revenue by offering similar services via video calls or instant messaging for free without having to pay levies such as licence fees.

App companies, on their part, have opposed any move to be regulated, saying they are already governed under the IT Act and such a move would stifle innovation.

In fact, an independent industry body representing Facebook, WhatApp, Google, Microsoft and Amazon.in have questioned Trai’s jurisdiction over OTT players who neither have resources such as spectrum, numbering rights, nor own the network or control the access to telecom infrastructure. NewsAroundUs

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