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Namibian official explains why biometrics is required for SIM registration: to build a strong protection mechanism for users of telecoms services

Namibia’s biggest telecommunications service provider MTC has faced criticism lately for asking citizens to provide their face and fingerprints biometrics while registering their SIM cards.

This move has been slammed as unlawful by critics and the country’s industry regulator, the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN), has been accused of inaction while this is happening.

In response to these concerns, an official of the telecoms giant has come out to justify their action, saying the move is to build a strong protection mechanism for users of telecoms services.

In a recent interview with Namibian newspaper New Era, the MTC’s chief human capital and corporate affairs officer, Tim Ekandjo, said it is their hope that the collection of biometrics will help curb fraud which has been rampant.

“Over the years, we have experienced a lot of fraudulent activities when it comes to SIM swaps and identity fraud. Many customers have lost their hard-earned money, and MTC also suffered losses. We are, therefore, in a good position to know through experience that only requiring basic information like your identity, full name and address is not enough, and that is why we now require biometric data, which is your fingerprint and facial recognition so that we create a digital identity of the customer for their own protection,” said Ekandjo.

He added that the move is in line with what is happening in other countries where biometrics are required for SIM card registration. He mentioned countries like Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

Asked if the biometric and biographic information collected from citizens is in safe hands, Ekandjo responded with an absolute yes.

“No need for anybody to doubt us now. Providing us with your identity documents, your home address and full name is also personal information, just like the information we require in terms of biometrics.  It makes no sense to trust us with part of your personal information, and not some,” he remarked.

“This information is safely stored on our cloud, and our requirement for this information is in line with the draft Namibia Data Protection Bill, and it adheres to the EU General Data Protection Regulation and the AU Convention on cybercrime and data. It is also important to note that we already have so many companies taking customers’ biometric data, so this is nothing new, and most of our customers appreciate the fact that we have gone the extra mile to protect them from cybercrime.”

The MTC official also disclosed that so far, they have biometrically registered 969,235 SIM cards and their responsibility is to ensure that all their customers are registered before the government deadline of 1 January 2024.

Article: Amid criticism, Namibian official explains why biometrics is required for SIM registration

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