Fear of identity theft is posing a potential threat to cellular mobile operators (CMOs) since there is a big possibility of misuse of fingerprints to rack up the sale of subscriber identity module (SIM) cards, said industry officials.
The officials agreed a thumb impression or fingerprint cannot be falsified, saying however such data can be misused to increase, for example, the sale of a company.
The officials said the fingerprint data can be stolen because thumb impressions are being captured at multiple points.
There’s also a possibility of database error, they added. Initially, thumb impressions were recorded on paper with ink; each impression’s picture was then uploaded against each computerised national identity card.
Blotted ink, faded or incomplete images would result into non-verification of genuine customers and customer dissatisfaction.
The CMO officials said that the industry had welcomed the government’s steps of implementation of biometrics system on security issues facing the country.
They said that the companies had also welcomed the biometric verification for issuing of new SIMs.
Not only will it help save a significant chunk of money by helping in curbing grey international traffic, but also allow CMOs to add a further layer of security to the existing measures.
However, this will only be possible if the system that is implemented is completely foolproof and installed after input from all the relevant stakeholders.
It is a pointless exercise if a system – that is not 100 percent effective – is implemented and if the CMOs are asked for further measures in a few months, they observed.
Therefore, a system before implementation must be tested for its potential misuse or error (human or electronic), they said. A company’s official said there are also logistic and other concerns that should be taken under consideration.
These include the high cost of maintenance of biometric devices, lack of local service support in case of damaged or faulty device, lack of retailer training, and the cost of verification from Nadra or a third party – which is already high and expected to increase with the new system in place. It is also important to ensure that the system implementation is managed by a reliable, dedicated, and competent authority staffed with qualified professional, Nadra for instance, to complete the task so that efforts do not go wasted.
Moreover, it’s important to note that implementation of the biometric verification system will require a significant infrastructure investment on the part of CMOs.
Some of within the industry feel it would best serve all concerned if this large investment cost were distributed equitably among all stakeholders possibly in the form of a subsidy on the import of equipment.
They pointed out that the industry would welcome some reassurance from the government that the CMOs would not be required to invest further following the implementation of the system.
It should also be kept in mind that re-verification of all SIMs currently in use through the proposed biometric system would take a longtime with dedicated resources and would not prove to be a feasible exercise.
So, while the implementation of a biometric verification system works great on paper, in practice it’s important to ensure that there are no gaps in the system, they said, adding that the CMOs will end up investing and implementing a system that is not 100 percent effective and efficient, bringing us all back to square one.