Delhi High Court backs OTP over biometrics for SIM registrations due to security concerns

Delhi’s High Court has backed suggestions from a pair of amicus curiae briefs that OTP authentication replace the use of Aadhaar biometrics for SIM registrations, saying it would close the loophole used by a shop owner to sell illegal SIM chips, The Economic Times reports.

The shop owner, who was arrested earlier this year, had instructed customers to repeat the thumbprint scan during the verification process, saying it had not worked the first time, and then used the second authentication to obtain a new account, which could be sold to an anonymous third party, according to court records. Senior advocate Dayan Krishnan and advocate Rushab Aggarwal were appointed to assist the court. They said that for Aadhaar’s biometric customer authentication, “security concerns are more pronounced” and “loopholes are easily accessible.”

They recommended that biometrics be requested only when essential, and also that there should be limits placed on how quickly the same authentication can be used for a new session. Their report also suggested first information reports (FIRs) made by investigating agencies should be forwarded to the UIDAI to make sure the agency has complete information, and that the UIDAI should file a complaint under the Aadhaar Act to ensure prosecution. It also emphasizes the importance of public awareness, and recommended programs be created to increase it.

“(I)ncidents of this nature must be given wide publicity through both the UIDAI and the investigating agency as the scope/nature of the breach cannot be adequately assessed without all concerned parties being put to notice,” the lawyers write. “This would enable the general public to assess whether they were also victims and to take remedial action if necessary.”

The court has asked for federal government and UIDAI feedback, which is scheduled to be heard February 12.

The details of customer identity authentication requirements for SIM purchases are still being worked out following the decision by India’s Supreme Court to block the requirement of Aadhaar biometrics for purposes other than accessing government services and benefits.

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