Government May Use Fingerprint Biometrics To Get SIM cards

Indian Home ministry has asked the department of telecommunication (DoT) to develop an option which will make subscriber to give his fingerprints compulsory for taking new SIM(Subscriber Identity Module) cards

The ministry also advised department of telecommunication (DoT) to maintain a central database comprising biometric features like Fingerprints of all subscribers and opt for linking it with the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) for keeping those data at one place from national security point of view.

An official said the department will discuss the matter with all stakeholders including telecom service providers for devising an alternative system as it was noted that the existing ones (physical verification) was not happening in all cases due to high competition among retailers to sell as many SIM cars as possible.

The DoT had last year made it mandatory for a mobile service provider to physically verify subscribers before issuing a SIM card. But, the state police from across the country complained how the retailers give it a miss despite repeated warnings because they did not face strict action from the service providers.

Physical verification has lot of disadvantages and it has some security concerns.

The Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar, who on May 15 wrote to the home ministry, pitching for introducing a system of getting biometric details of subscribers before issuing SIM cards to them.Kumar had reportedly complained that the cut-throat competition among the mobile service providers had led to flabbiness in carrying out the prescribed physical verification of an applicant. He also pointed out that the distributors were making bulk sale of SIM cards to criminals which have serious implications for national security.

Citing a recent case in which the police had caught an unauthorized retailer who had sold 490 SIM cards on the basis of forged IDs, the commissioner had pointed that no worthwhile verification was being made due to illegal nexus of distributors and employees of the service providers.

Kumar also suggested that the DoT and TRAI should be requested to impose heavy penalties and exercise stricter control.

At present, pre-activated SIM cards attract a penalty of Rs 50,000 each in addition to an immediate disconnection of the mobile service.