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Six things you should know about Sim Card Registration.

by JOE PETER JOKSEY

The mandatory SIM card registration peddlers are trying to sell you an old, costly and discredited idea. They say it is needed to fight crime. But a closer look would reveal that the measure suffer from the following fatal flaws:

1. It is impossible to implement: We have millions of SIM cards in circulation, with millions more roaming SIM cards used. These SIM cards are used not just for mobile phones, but also for tablets, payphones, landlines, modem, routers, and other devices. We also have thousands of tourists and visitors going into the country bringing in roaming SIM cards. Exactly how would all these SIM cards be registered? Is this even possible? Would it disrupt government services and businesses – for how long?

2. It is costly: The tedious registration process is expected to be costly, and there would be separate costs for setting up, maintaining and safekeeping the database. Who will pay for these costs? The telcos? The taxpayers? Consumers? Exactly how much? Would this involve a one-time payment or annual payments? Who would receive these payments and how?

3. It violates constitutional rights: SIM cards are the key not just to mobile phone services, but to online transactions. They bear our identity information, contacts and unlocks many other services. The Constitution bans any and all unreasonable and arbitrary searches and seizures; court-issued warrants are required. The proposed system is also prone to abuse by those who have control of or access to the proposed database – arguably, the first step towards surveillance. Further, it threatens the privacy rights of journalists, activists, businesses, and politicians.

4. It's not fraud-proof and will spawn new crimes: With registration of SIM cards is implemented, we have to brace ourselves for a new crime wave: the theft of SIM cards, illegal re-sale of stolen SIM cards, identity theft to fraudulently register SIM cards and others. Because we cannot expect criminals, scammers and syndicates to register SIM cards under their own names. The “solution” ironically becomes a new, perhaps lucrative, opportunity for criminals.

5. It is doomed to fail: Would the Prime Minister, Cabinet Members, Lawmakers, Judges, Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agents, Diplomats and their Families be exempt from registration? This we have to stress: just one rogue SIM card – stolen, fraudulently-registered or unregistered – would render this proposed system worthless. What more if batches of SIM cards go unregistered?

6. It is not future-proof: SIM cards are not forever. They get lost, damaged or replaced. What are the remedies in the proposed system for these instances? Would records be updated automatically? But more than this, we may soon see a future without SIM cards. In fact, phone manufacturers are now proposing the phaseout of physical SIM cards. If that happens, what happens to this proposed system?

Please also focus on thwarting other crimes and offenses like violations of consumer rights, sale of substandard services, harmful monopoly/oligopoly activities, and the like.