The response by the government came after media reported that privacy of citizens was compromised and the government was undertaking surveillance.
The government has clarified that it had sought call data records of mobile users to address public complaints regarding poor network, call drops, etc and there was no infringement on the privacy of any person. The response by the government came after media reported that privacy of citizens was compromised and the government was undertaking surveillance.
“This data is anonymous and does not contain names of either the maker or receiver of calls. There is no infringement on privacy of any person. No personal details are collected. There is no tracking of any phone number,” the Ministry of Communications said in a statement.
It further said the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is empowered under Rule 419 of the Indian Telegraph Rules 1951 to access such anonymous data for improving network quality. Moreover, the DoT has also put in place an in-house standard operating procedure so that any authorisation of such access to call drop data can only be approved by very senior officers.
The government said numerous complaints were received regarding the quality of service of telecommunications network, call drops, echo, cross connections and incomplete or poor caller experience. To identify the specific problem areas and routes where call drops occur, the DoT has developed a software to analyse big data and accurately ascertain call drops in any area.
For this purpose, data on calls made from mobiles in any tower coverage area is analysed to ascertain calls terminated within 30 seconds of the call and made again as normally is the case for a typical call drop. Big data analytics techniques can be used to identify such calls and the accurate information of call drops in specific areas.
The government said it is an innovative way of identifying and addressing the call drop issue. “It will be appreciated that in the above exercise, there is no violation of privacy of any subscriber. The identity of subscriber is not known. Only the calls made by subscribers who happen to pass through a particular cell tower area get covered for the purpose of analysis without knowing the names of who the caller is and to whom the call is made,” the DoT clarified.
The COAI, which had flagged concerns regarding the call data records in February, also seemed satisfied with the government response. It said the DoT has reiterated that the data sought does not contain personal information like names and addresses of subscribers or names of persons to whom calls are made.