DLT: Can BlockChain Technology Retain The Right To Privacy Just like It Retains IPR?
In July 2019, TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) asked all the operators in India to adopt blockchain technology to make sure that all the registered telemarketers have the access to the phone databases and a big headache known as “Spam Calls” can be reduced. Under the Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulations, all the telemarketers were asked to use DLT (Distributive Ledger Technology) for controlling the flow of commercial communications on their respective networks. So before proceeding, let's briefly discuss what is a blockchain exactly? A blockchain is a kind of distributive ledger, which is very less susceptible to hacking. Data is stored as encryption in different blocks in a blockchain and each block has a unique code called a hash which is very difficult to breach, having a unique code makes it more difficult for someone to breach the privacy because for hacking a blockchain one needs to hack at least 51% of the blocks attached to it, which is a quite insurmountable task. Blockchain is functioned through a chain of computers called nodes, these nodes have their specific keys to enter and control the blockchain. This much of the information would suffice to give you a basic idea about what a blockchain exactly is.
Blockchain technology doesn’t have a limited scope, it has proven its efficiency in the field of IPR. As blockchain is an immutable ledger, it can be very lucrative in the field of pharma, automobiles, and the consumer goods industries. Blockchain can be used in the authentication and retrieval process of the counterfeit and stolen goods. Recording the IP rights in a distributive ledger instead of a traditional database can make them smart IP rights and these rights being registered on blockchain technology cannot be hampered. Blockchain is very useful in such jurisdictions where proof of first use is required in the cases of IPR disputes. The author through this blog will try to put some light on how can blockchain technology reduces the surging graph of spam calls in India and what sort of violation of law spam calls do.
What is a Spam Call?:-
A spam call can mean different things for different people as it is not a definite thing. Mostly unwanted and disturbing calls which create mental tension and stress are called spam calls, but some type of calls are openly categorized as spam calls like:-
Fraud or criminal activity
Abusive or obscene calls (to anyone but especially women)
Unsolicited telemarketing calls
Scams (like pyramid schemes, tech-support scams, impersonation of financial institutions)
It is not possible to completely eradicate spam calls. but they can be limited keeping in view the privacy of the consumers. Can DLT or blockchain technology limit them? This question will be answered in the latter part of the blog.
Rise of spam calls in India:-
As compared to the 20 other countries of the world, India was at the top in the tally of spam calls. According to a report by truecaller, In 2017, India recorded 22.6 spam calls on an average for a user in a month. It's 2020 now and especially due to the Covid-19 situation, I still wonder what a massive amelioration would have been there in the graph of spam calls. Spam calls in India mostly originate from operators providing telecom services, and from companies providing financial services. A large part of the spam calls from operators are used for advertising special offers, free data, and unlimited calling packs, the report said. The concentration of spam calls is as follows:-
l 63% of the spam calls are made by the operator and financial companies.
l Nuisance calls like harassment and prank make 20% of the spam calls.
l Promotional calls also known as telemarketing spam-like surveys and subscriptions constitute 13% of spam calls.
l Fraud attempts and money swindling constitute 9% of the spam calls.
l Companies selling insurance policies constitute 3% of the spam calls.
Spam Calls: Violation of Domestic as well as International Law:-
If the mobile number of a customer gets in the hand of an unauthorized person or spammer, and that spammer keeps on calling that every customer, and after being reported forwards the mobile number of that very customer to more spammers. This whole process is a major transgression of that person’s right to privacy. The right to privacy is both a fundamental right and basic human right. Earlier in many judgments of the apex court, it was held that the right to privacy is an inseparable and indispensable part of article 21 of the Indian Constitution i.e., Right to life and Personal Liberty. Then came to the landmark judgment of the KS Puttaswamy case and right to privacy was given recognition as a fundamental right and as said in the landmark judgment of the Kesavananda Bharti case, fundamental rights constitute the basic structure of our constitution and cannot be abridged from the citizens. The right to privacy also has a very important international aspect, it is guaranteed in the respected international treaties like UDHR and ICCPR. UDHR is not a binding treaty, but ICCPR is a binding treaty, which is also ratified by India. Article 12 of UDHR and Article 17 of ICCPR guarantees protection from arbitrary infringement of the Right to privacy. Spam calls are nothing but a nuisance and an encroachment on the personal life of the people and they should be if not completely eradicated then must be limited.
Conclusion: Is Blockchain Technology Need of the Hour?:-
Blockchain as a technology is a powerful tool to combat the issue of spam calls and fraud risks, to protect user information, as well as the integrity of the telecom sector. This Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)-based solution will enable enterprises to stop financial frauds and perpetration of misleading financial information by unregistered telecom marketers who rampantly use the SMS service of Telcos. Blockchain is a progressive innovation that manages shared information associations and gives an open and decentralized system for use. Blockchain framework is an appropriated organized record and the record holds each and every exchange for each client to see. Each and every hub of the system has a duplicate of the record. This sort of approach guarantees absolute decentralization. Starting with digital forms of money like Bitcoin, it has now extended to an absolutely new level usable for various applications. Ventures, for example, banking, medical services, protection, gracefully chain, and media transmission can expand their productivity utilizing this new innovation. Executing blockchain into the media transmission part for forestalling and controlling false telephones and messages may open up future entryways of chances. It is almost impossible to completely suppress the spam calls, but it should be limited as much as possible to maintain the integrity of the right to privacy of people and reduce at least some proportion of mental stress from their heads.
Navadha Pandey, Telcos must make consumers aware of spam calls, SMS through campaigns: Trai, 23 July 2020, 9:36 AM, https://www.livemint.com/industry/telecom/telcos-must-make-consumers-aware-of-spam-calls-sms-through-campaigns-trai-11579598702526.html
Birgit Clark, Blockchain and IP Law: A Match made in crypto heaven, 23 July 2020, 9:51 AM, https://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2018/01/article_0005.html
What is a spam, 23 July 2020, 10:02 AM, https://support.truecaller.com/hc/en-us/articles/360000894869-What-is-spam-
Salman SH, India most affected by spam calls, biggest spammers are telcos: Truecaller, 23 July 2020, 10:21 AM, https://www.medianama.com/2017/07/223-india-most-affected-by-spam-calls/
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