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Subscribers scramble for biometric SIM registrations in Kenya as deadline extended

Two legal challenges mounted against MNOs
Subscribers scramble for biometric SIM registrations in Kenya as deadline extended

Kenyan mobile network operator Safaricom has launched an online portal for customers to update their SIM card details to help them avoid having their accounts switched off as the deadline for biometric registration passes, Capital Business reports.

April 15 was the deadline set by the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) for SIM card registration, which Safaricom says requires biometrics enrollment. Safaricom has been using face biometrics to comply with the order, though critics of the move say biometrics do not need to be collected as part of the registry.

The impending deadline had caused customers to form long queues at Safaricom shops, as CA Director General Ezra Chiloba warned that the body would not extend the deadline. Those not registered at the deadline were threatened with suspension, followed by deactivation 90 days later.

With tensions mounting, Thomson Reuters Foundation reports the deadline has been delayed to October 15 by the CA.

Chiloba urged Kenyans to complete their SIM registration days earlier, stating that “Financial fraud, kidnapping, terrorism and related crimes prevail in situations of compromised SIM card registration processes,” according to an agency Tweet.

There are 65 million active mobile subscriptions in Kenya, according to the report.

Biometric SIM registries have boosted national digital ID systems in several countries, but have also resulted in millions of canceled accounts across Africa, which some advocates say include too many legitimate subscribers.

Court challenge filed

Now, constitutional advocacy non-government organization the Katiba institute and the Law Society of Kenya have brought a legal challenge against Safaricom’s collection of facial photos and biometrics data, The Star writes.

The advocates argue that the Kenya Information and Communication (Registration of SIM cards) Regulations 2015 does not require biometric registration. They have asked the court to block Safaricom’s collection of photos and biometrics, and prevent the company from cutting off SIMs.

A separate suit has been brought against Safaricom and Kenyan telco competitor Airtel by a Kenyan living in the UK who says the directive for those already registered to re-register is illegal, according to Business Daily.

The outlet reports that photos are being collected to meet the customer due diligence rules of anti-money laundering (AML) regulations.

The case will be heard June 8.

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