Public comments on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (Icasa) proposal linking biometric data to mobile SIM cards has closed.
The proposal calls for biometric data such as fingerprint mapping, facial recognition, and retina scans to be bound to a consumer’s mobile SIM card.
If approved, the new regulations would require all South Africans to provide their biometric data to mobile service providers to obtain a new cellphone number or approve a SIM swap.
The proposals are included alongside other draft regulations published by the regulator which closed for public comment on Wednesday, 11 May.
The objective of the new proposals is to prevent serious crime and protect consumers from the trauma of identity fraud where associated phone numbers are used.
According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre, in 2021, SIM-swap fraud had increased by 91%, year-over-year.
Icasa said stricter security measures are required to curb the hijacking of mobile phone numbers either through porting or via a SIM swap transaction, among other instances of fraudulent activity.
How biometric data is managed by mobile operators would still be subject to strict privacy laws laid out in the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines.
While the proposal may make sim swapping safer a public campaign on the proposed draft regulations run by Dear SA has attracted almost 30,000 public comments, with the majority rejecting the Icasa’s proposal.
One comment states that government is out to abuse the biometric data.
“No, I do not support the proposed regulation! Yet again another mechanism to track and trace one under the disguise of ‘security’. Clearly preparing us for the One World Government where you will own nothing and be happy and be forced to live off Universal Basic Income. It’s an invasion of privacy and it will 100% be abused by the government.”
In reality, there is very little difference between what is being asked of the mobile service providers and what customers have had to provide to financial institutions, with many using two and three factor authenticationS when doing banking using their mobile phones.