New Delhi, Apr 14: As a debate rages on 'net neutrality', a discussion paper floated by regulator TRAI has said that mobile applications providing free internet-based calls and messaging services can be a threat to individual and national security.
Besides, it has also come down heavily on taxi-hailing apps like Uber and Ola, as also e-commerce platforms, saying they were bypassing local rules and licensing regime, while posing significant risks despite providing easy solutions for the consumers.
The paper, put in the public domain on March 27, is aimed at soliciting comments from all stakeholders for framing rules on net neutrality and on regulation of Over-the-Top service providers such as WhatsApp, Skype, Viber and Google Talk.
"Most applications can trace the user's location for underlying processes (such as GPS apps finding the nearest restaurants).
This information may be used to commit a crime, or the location itself may be the target of a crime. Such threats can impact the nation's security and financial health," TRAI paper says. [A victory for netizens: Flipkart pulls out of Airtel Zero after social media backlash]
At the same time, TRAI has also recognised positive impact of OTT applications in terms of a boost they can provide to the business output and employee efficiency.
While listing out various regulatory imbalances and security issues related to internet-based calling and messaging applications, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has further said in the paper that opinions expressed freely without any restraint on social media as "another potentially problematic area".
The paper includes views from TRAI itself, as also the publicly available data and information from other sources. It says that besides security challenges at the national level, OTT communications and OTT media can pose a threat to privacy.
The paper, which has called for public comments till April 24 and for counter-comments till May 8, further says that the messaging applications can manipulate social engineering by "psychological manipulation of people" into performing actions or divulging confidential information.
"Recently, Facebook manipulated information posted on 689,000 users' home pages and found it could make people feel more positive or negative through a process of "emotional contagion", the paper said.
It said that messaging applications can unintentionally cause disturbance and affect the social fabric. [#NetNeutrality in India: From Arvind Kejriwal to Vishal Dadlani, how is Twitterati reacting?]
The paper says that mobile application users also rarely understand that the so-called free apps actually share their personal information with various third party developers, and that this can pose serious threats.