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January 28, 2011

The Case for SIM Card Registration

The recent string of bombings in the country has prompted the debate over pre-paid SIM card registration. This is because the bombers used a cellphone to remotely trigger the bomb on the bus in EDSA.

The debate revolves around privacy concerns and national security. This has been discussed before and there were actually efforts before to make into a law requiring prepaid SIM card buyers to register the number to their name. Obviously, that move was stuck down by privacy advocates and lobbyists but because of the recent incidents, the issue has been revived.

SIM card registration is being implemented in many countries around the world, including neighboring Singapore. Aside from security issues, there are many other benefits that can be derived from the move to register pre-paid SIM cards.

  • Postpaid Subscribers already do SIM registration. Over 2 million postpaid subscribers in the Philippines have registered their names against their SIM cards and the system has been in place for over a decade. Adding pre-paid SIM cards into the lot is technically doable although may require some time and effort.
  • SIM Registration allows for proper accountability, much like registering a vehicle or a gun. If a SIM card user knows their number can be traced back to their name, they might not make impulsive actions to malign, threaten, scam or defraud other people. One can now easily report and block scammers from using anonymous numbers to do their MO.
  • SIM Replaceability. If a certain SIM card number is registered to your name, and it has been stolen or lost, you can easily request the SIM card to be de-activated and get a replacement SIM card (same way you do with postpaid SIM cards nowadays). No more alibis saying you lost your phone or your SIM card has been damaged since you can always get a replacement card for the same number.

Chinese mobile phone users show SIM cards in front of his ID card in Suzhou city, east Chinas Jiangsu province, 22 December 2009. After pushing the real name system for online game users on August 1, China will expand the policy to mobile phone users starting from September 1, local media reported.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), new mobile phone users need to register with their real names from September 1, while old customers also need to submit their information within three years. According to a report from Xinhua, 70 percent of over 700 million mobile subscribers in China are currently using pre-paid cards and thus did not register, making misuse for SMS spam and fraud easy {source: Corbis}.

Of course, this move does not guarantee than it will prevent future incidents like the recent bus bombing. And with over 73 million subscribers in the country, the idea of registering the tens of millions of existing SIM users seems almost impossible.

Aside from the logistical problems, there are other reasons why telcos might not want to go this route:

  • The burden of registering existent prepaid SIM card users will most likely be shouldered by the telcos and that effort requires more resources and manpower.
  • SIM registration might cripple the existing distribution and sales channels. Re-selling SIM cards will no longer be as easy as buying a can of soda at 7-11.
  • It will not look good from a marketing perspective — the subscriber figures (over 73 million) being paraded lately is actually defined as “activated” not “active” users. Once a prepaid SIM card is activated, it is counted as 1 but if that card is lost, damaged, expired or no longer being used it is not deducted from the total count (making the numbers a bit bloated). Bigger numbers are better for marketing. By doing SIM registration, the total count could shrink considerably.
  • People can still fake details of their registration. This is where the idea of the “national ID system” comes into play but that’s for another discussion altogether.

SIM registration will not totally prevent occurrences like the bus bombing from happening again. It does make it a little harder though. It’s not fool-proof but it can be an effective deterrent when combined with other security measures.

A first step to Prepaid SIM Registration

75 Responses to “The Case for SIM Card Registration”

  1. Penoy says:

    @sonofa

    nagpapatawa ka ba? medyo hindi na related sa topic yung opinion mo. sigurado ka ba na lahat ng info sa profile ng isang tao naka post ng online ay totoo? hindi ibig sabihin na pag transparent tayo tapos na ang problema, isipin mo din kung wala privacy madaling malalaman ng mga terrorista kung sino ang mga target lalo na yung mga anak ng mga mayayaman at yung pwede nilang pagkakitaan.

    saka may nagf-friendster pa ba?

  2. Sonofa says:

    @Penoy
    Di nga lahat nakalagay ay totoo pero sa pics palang na pinopost alam na kagad kung ano ka klaseng tao at kung saan ka palaging nakikita…

    Ewan ko… Katulong namen sa bahay may friendster parin eh… At natatandaan ko sa pinas malakas ang friendster

    Sa laki ng companies na katulad ni smart, globe, sun… Papayag ba sila manakawan ng info? Mas tiwala pa nga ako sa security nila kaysa sa security ng files nila kaysa sa mga files naten sa cityhall…

    Sinasabi ko lang gano kalaking invasion of privacy ang sim card registration?

    And lastly para ma prevent ang ganitong bombings dapat di na payagan pumara kahit saan ang mga bus… At sa bus station at bus stop may pulis palagi…
    Mas tipid sa registration at cctv cameras… Disiplina lang naman talaga kailangan…

  3. Dan says:

    No objections regarding SIM card registration. This is actually in effect in other countries (ie. UAE), where you have to bring your passport/valid ID when purchasing a SIM Card.

    Security takes precedence over privacy. It’s not as if the mobile number and identity will be divulged in a public database following registration.

  4. adam says:

    Actually dito sa Singapore before your allowed to purchase a prepaid sim need muna ng NRIC number mo. Na try ko yun dati sa Singtel. Sa Pinas tingin ko mahirap yan implement kasi sa sobrang dami ng tao.

  5. trickz says:

    IMHO, this not the solution. First, we don’t have stable machines / equipments here in the Philippines. Why? because, hackers can decrypt such databases of the governments, very vulnerable for black hackers. What if the system malfunction? I don’t want to be blamed and accused for others crime. 2nd, best hackers are from Philippines:)

    I hope they will discuss it further until they have solutions. Wag na sana umabot sa 100 buses ang sumabog. GOD Bless the Philippines.

  6. Herce says:

    I just wanted to point out that, in Asia, the 2 countries you listed as already doing this, Singapore and China, are authoritarian regimes with no freedom.

    Is that the model we want to follow? Turn our free Democracy into authoritarianism by incrementally removing freedom after freedom from all of us Philipino citizens?

    I say, this is crazy and idiotic. These attacks are being taught to domestic terrorists by foreigners. Our domestic groups do not have the expertise to know how to setup a remote mobile detonator. Indeed several months ago it was already known that foreign terrorists had come to the RP. That was why we got travel advisories over the holiday.

    So I propose we force registration on non-citizens only.

    Our drivers’ licenses gives our nationality. Mine says Philippines and on resident foreigners I know it says the country of their citizenship. Non-resident foreigners don’t get driver’s licenses. So the solution is simple, buy a sim and show a drivers license. If it says Philippines, no registration. If it says something else or you don’t have one, the the sim needs to be registered by the retailer.

  7. What happens when your sim card (inside phone) gets ahem “stolen”? And you never bothered to report it/disconnect it *wink wink* because you had no idea that “they” were going to use it to trigger a bomb?

  8. agrimensor says:

    @Iyan Sommerset
    Stupidity is not an excuse. The mere fact that somebody could use it to lengthen your bill is enough cause to panic.

  9. Roy says:

    @agrimensor

    I think Iyan’s statement is under the presumption that it is a prepaid sim as the question is to whether register prepaid sims or not. Post paid sims being already registered with how the telephone bill is already under the subscriber’s name.

  10. Ton says:

    This would entail cost to the carrier. Carrier will not want to shoulder it, and pass on the “registration fee” to the subscriber. This, I’m sure, will hurt. Now if we’re amenable to pay for that “progress” people seem to talk about a lot here, then by all means.

  11. Ed says:

    Bakit hindi gawing yung cellphone na lang ang nakaregister? I mean lahat yan meron unique IEMI.

    Oo pwede palitan yan ng mga technicians pero kung pwede nga i-block ng telcos ang mga expired SIMs bakit hindi pwede i-filter ang cellphones na hindi naka-register ang IEMI? I don’t know if this is feasible pero at least kahit papaano madidiscourage din nito ang nakawan ng cellphones.

  12. Jan Christopher says:

    This is good but conduct a forum or an online poll so that the CONGRESS & TELCOS will know what we fill like lessening the bomb scare carnappings kidnappings & more

  13. JKisaragi says:

    I like the idea of having this SIM REGISTRATION implemented here.

    They’re right in a way, Postpaid subscribers are already subject to this. All of their info is with our carriers. So how is it any different if Prepaid subscribers were to give out their info as well?

    This one-time solution would certainly beat the costs of having more incompetent men out there.

    Funny thing about CCTVs is that some people think they can install these things and that they’ll be instantly protected. Bad news is that you need real men/women to be on-guard watching those screens in real-time in order for it to be THAT effective.

    Power consumption + Manpower on a 24/7 operation is in my opinion, not that cost-effective.

  14. raymond says:

    Human manipulation is only needed for maintenance.

  15. leemar
    Twitter: hex614
    says:

    tama yan! i register lahat ng sim, para maiwasan na din ang lokohan. para magka alaman na kung sino talaga sa 3 telcos ang maraming subscribers.

  16. Miklos says:

    Just use the danish ID system – even Japan is using it now.

    It’s robust, it’s proven to work and it’s simple.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_identification_number_(Denmark)

    Then there would be no issue at all – require all sim cards to be registered with the person ID number and voila security has been improved and all the privacy nuts can rest assured it doesn’t leak info.

  17. JN Ebrahim says:

    The Phil. Government is too late on imposing this Policy. It should be Approve and implement wether they like or not. For the GOOD SIDE nman poh. =D

  18. Snofsan says:

    Ok lang naman mag pa Sim registration. May mga professionals here in the Philippines that specialized in securing databases and companies. Sa akin lang kung walang disciplina kahit anung systema implement ng mga local Telcos or ng kahit anung bansa hindi magiging maganda Kahit na democratic pa yan or authoritarian. Hindi natin pwedeng i-asa sa gobyerno lahat. Hirap kasi sa karamihan sa atin eh abusado.

  19. Scalp says:

    Definitely believe that that you said. Your favorite reason appeared to be at the web the easiest thing to bear in mind of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while other folks think about issues that they just don’t understand about. You managed to hit the nail upon the highest and outlined out the entire thing without having side-effects , other people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks!

  20. Inayat Ullah says:

    Dear friends,
    how can i know owner name? can you help me plz send me detail.
    thanks.

  21. japong says:

    if they want to implement this they should have done it way back before cellphones and text messages boom (pre-text era). Sa dami dami nang pwede mabilhan mg sim card sa pinas kahit sa sari sari store meron ang iba hindi lang iisa sim dalawa o tatlo pa, paano maireregister lahat ng sim tiyak napakalaking trabaho at gastos sa telecom. Pero sa tingin ko sa mga database ng telecom pwede sila magabiso sa pamamgitan ng text sa lahat ng mobile numbers na nasa database nila na dapat iregister nila ang kanilang number or else mabloblock ito sa isetset na timeline kunwari within six months at dapat meron mga register booth sa ibat ibang lugar ang mga telecom at dagsaan ang magreregister. Kaya magastos at matrabaho talaga ito.

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Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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