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ICASA has asked for views on tying the biometric data of South Africans to SIM cards

ICASA has published a series of draft proposals for public comment ( by 11 May. The most eye-catching of these proposals is that the mobile operators must have the ability to identify their individual subscribers by means of their biometric details (these are: fingerprints, facial recognition, retina scans, etc). Many smartphones already operate using biometric identification (e.g., thumbprint). ICASA argues that this policy would assist in reducing the number of SIM cards which are stolen or duplicated.

It is not a new idea; a few other countries already require mobile operators to verify their individual customers with some form of biometric identification. Biometric data is also specifically identified in POPIA as ‘special data’ (i.e. sensitive) and therefore subject to the opt-in rules. This means that the mobile operators would have to be extremely careful how they store or use (“process”) such data.

Overall, a better and more effective way to ensure that SIM cards are protected from being stolen or duplicated is to be welcomed by the ecommerce sector. More efficient security will protect against fraudsters who buy products using someone else’s mobile phone. This form of theft has been growing over time. What is now needed is a crucial point to which e-shops can report such fraud so that the phone number used can be traced back to the mobile operator.


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