South Africans said biometric-SIM link was ‘next step’, ‘evolution’ at end of consultation


Reported details and reactions are emerging to the March 2022 proposal by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the country’s telecommunications regulator, to link individuals’ biometric data to SIM cards in the hope to fight against fraud.

If passed, mobile operators will have access to user fingerprint mapping, facial biometrics, eye scanners and even behavioral data, according to web computing. The data would be linked to users’ SIM cards and phone numbers and the biometric database would be used to authenticate the identity of subscribers requesting a SIM card swap.

SIM card fraud has exploded. The South African Banking Risk Information Center (SABRIC) said in November 2021 that SIM card trades in digital banking fraud had jumped 91% in one year.

The consultation period for draft proposals ends on May 11 and just before the deadline, opinions are pouring in from the tech sector, while a CMU Africa researcher launches a study on the impacts of registering the SIM card in six African countries.

iiDENTIfii declares support

Gur Geva, co-founder and CEO of iiDENTIFii in South Africa, a specialist in facial biometrics, says the aim of the proposals is to prevent crime and protect consumers against identity theft: “Criminals who use a slew of mobile phone numbers in illegal activities including money laundering, terrorism and kidnapping would find it harder to hide from law enforcement if new regulations come into effect.

“And because biometric data cannot be copied, consumers would have an extra layer of protection against their mobile number being used in identity theft or to authenticate fraudulent payments.”

Geva considers linking biometrics to SIM cards secure and simple. “As the deadline for public comment on the draft regulations approaches, iiDENTIFii has engaged with several telecom operators on the deployment of remote digital biometric authentication in accordance with approved stringent local and international standards. proposed are far more sophisticated than the current FADN laws in terms of protecting South Africans against fraud.

He says strict privacy laws would determine how the data is handled and no raw biometrics would be stored.

The benefits would not stop there. Identity-linked biometrics could have positive impacts across government, according to Geva. “Government departments like Home Affairs and Social Development would be able to ensure that grants, documents and other communications reach the intended recipient.”

Moving on to private sector activities: “There are also huge opportunities in the digital payments space, as remote biometrics enable access to services that have the potential to have a significant impact on inclusion. financial.

“As most South African adults own a mobile phone, biometrics removes friction from the payment process, making transactions easy, instant and secure.”

The CIO of the National Lotteries Commission also supports the biometric link

“Citizen identification via biometrics is just the next evolution of a trend that started decades ago, and the important thing is that innovation is at the forefront and policies are adjusted accordingly. demands of the digital economy,” said Mothibi Ramusi. , CIO of the National Lottery Commission addressing the Public Sector ICT Forum, reports web computing.

He reassured the audience that the government had no ulterior motives, that it was only planning to protect them against fraud.

Ramusi also believes that the proposals could be made under the Personal Information Protection Act (POPIA) compliance requirements, contradicting the views of local security experts.

“I want to encourage all of us here to believe that the government knows what it is doing and will ensure the utmost security of citizens’ data,” ITWeb quoted the CIO as saying.

“When citizens overemphasize and fear the potential violation of POPIA compliance, they will miss out on the security benefits they can reap and the endless innovation opportunities that can be unlocked for them by being able to walk around with their biometric data on their phones.

Study on the realities of SIM linking to get started

A post-doctoral researcher at Carnegie Melon University (CMU) Africa is preparing a study on the impact of identity binding to SIM cards and how life has adapted to the requirement, and has described the study in a presentation to the Alan Turing Institute’s Trusted Digital Identity Interest Group.

Edith Luhanga and her team will explore pathways to obtaining ID, why people fail, why some succeed, the impact of having to register IDs against SIM cards. The study will investigate how people deal with mobile operator agents who have many methods of selling SIM cards without an ID, and the realities of using a SIM card registered with another person’s ID.

The qualitative and quantitative study will take place in three East African countries and three West African countries, including Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania.

Article topics

Africa | biometric data | biometrics | criminal identification | data protection | digital identity | fraud prevention | identity verification | iiDENTIFii | national identity card | SIM cards | South Africa


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