Yesterday, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued the outline of a plan to utilize blockchain technology to secure public information and thereby help reduce the number of unsolicited calls and messages received on smart devices from unauthorized telemarketers.
Once the blockchain is operational, consumer information will only be available to telemarketers who have registered with TRAI, and only after the consumer subscribes with the specific telemarketer and agrees to receive specific communications. The consumer will also have the ability to review and revoke their subscriptions at any time.
According to a press release accompanying the draft, TRAI previously attempted to stop unsolicited telemarketer calls in 2010 by establishing the Do Not Disturb Registry, but the move did little to ease the nuisance "because unscrupulous elements started obtaining customers' consent, often surreptitiously, or resorted to use of unregistered telemarketers that call or message from a ten-digit number."
TRAI also hopes to use the security and transparency offered by blockchain technology to set guidelines for how telemarketing companies should obtain and use customer information.
In a statement to The Economic Times, TRAI chairman RS Sharma said:
"Blockchain will ensure two things – non-repudiative [record keeping] and confidentiality. Only those authorised to access details will be able to access subscriber details and only when they need to deliver service … [TRAI] will become the first organisation to implement this kind of regulation."
The draft also stipulates monetary penalties for companies that abuse consent by contacting consumers too many times or about services or goods in which they have not expressed interest. This regulation can be done through a digital record that shows all communication from every involved party.
It remains to be seen whether blockchain technology can stop pesky telemarketers from bothering the citizens of India, but TRAI Secretary SK Gupta is hopeful:
"Blockchain has proven useful where the objective is to cryptographically secure information and make it available only on [a] need to know basis. Yet none may deny their actions or tamper with records, once recorded on the distributed ledger, which uniformly enforces compliance.
It appears to be the first instance anywhere in the world to use this technology at such a scale in the telcom sector."