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Pushback against SIM registration in Philippines as India adds facial recognition checks

Exercise continues with Hong Kong approaching its deadline, fraud in Peru
Pushback against SIM registration in Philippines as India adds facial recognition checks

As SIM-identity registration continues worldwide, privacy and fraud risks come to the fore. Indians are subject to an unclear privacy process via a system that runs facial recognition against the SIM registration database; a deadline for SIM registration nears in Hong Kong; Filipinos resist against SIM exercise and Peru warns of the dangers of giving biometrics to street vendors of SIM cards.

Philippines anti SIM registration protest, exercise leads to scams

The Junk SIM Registration Network held a protest outside the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) calling for a suspension of the Philippines’ ongoing SIM registration exercise, reports ABS-CBN News. They intend to file a legal petition.

The group considers elements of the registration including the submission of a selfie of the mobile user as a risk to data privacy. Junk SIM Registration Network also finds the registration process exclusionary as many do not have smartphones for navigating the web pages or apps.

SIM registration got off to a speedy start in the Philippines, albeit with technical hitches the first day. Almost 15 million linked their SIMs to their ID in the first ten days. This has since risen to 18.5 million, or 11 percent of 169 million SIMs.

The registration process was argued to be a way to reduce SMS-based frauds. The NTC has had to post warnings that the exercise has in fact led to its own scams.

“The Commission has determined that some individuals might be taking advantage of technically and computer illiterate persons by offering free or paid assistance for the latter’s compliance with SIM Registration,” states a warning on its site.

This is followed by a reminder in Filipino (Tagalog, machine translated here): “The National Telecommunications Commission does not recommend posting on social media by private individuals offering assistance to register your SIM. SIM registration is free and free of charge. Beware and do not believe people no one is known to offer assistance with your registration, with or without payment.”

India Department of Telecommunications using facial recognition on SIM users

A police tool for detecting and shutting down SIM-related fraud by using facial recognition against SIM records is being used without user consent or knowledge, with no control over the data collected, according to an analysis by Medianama.

The ‘Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition Powered Solution for Telecom Sim Subscriber Verification’ or ASTR was created by the Haryana DoT. It takes photos of the SIM user submitted to the Telecom Subscriber Partners and compares them to other images and uses AI-based fuzzy logic to check other database details for duplicate SIM registrations under different names, date of birth etc.

By checking all images in a database, it maps subscriber image with names and allows police to spot fraudulent subscribers, such as one face using different names or fake IDs.

It also finds if an individual has passed the nine-line limit.

Use of ASTR in Mewat, Haryana, the state surrounding New Delhi, led to 428,000 SIMs being deactivated of 1.67 million active SIMs.

Medianama sent a list of questions (such as where is the notification for people’s data being processed, where is data sorted, for how long) to India’s DoT but has yet to receive a reply.

Peru SIM sales staff to undergo biometric verification

Sales staff of authorized mobile operator distributors will have to undergo fingerprint verification when they sell SIM cards from 12 January according to new regulations from Peru’s telecoms regulator, Osiptel, reports Gestión. Customers already have to do so to link their ID to their number.

Operators must also report geolocation references for their outlets and authorized distributors. The requirements extend to SIM cards bought with delivery.

The intention is to be able to trace who is involved in a sale to reduce fraud.

A public information campaign is also warning people not to buy SIMs from street sellers. These vendors still take a fingerprint from the buyer, but may then use that profile to create 20 more lines without the person knowing.

Subway station kiosks open to help Hongkongers meet deadline

Hongkongers must register their SIM cards by 23 February in order to keep their service working following regulations launched in September, reports the South China Morning Post. Government registration kiosks are being set up at 25 MTR stations (transit hubs).

People are urged to take their phones, SIMs and Hong Kong identity cards to the kiosks for help. There are services in 18 post offices and telecoms operators also offer a registration service.

The move brings Hong Kong into line with the registration requirements in the rest of China. It is intended to tackle crime. Individuals will be limited to 10 lines per operator; corporate users at 25. The under sixteens need guardians’ permission and their details will be held on the account as guarantors.

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