MTC is scanning hands and taking facial pictures, whilst criminal frameworks handiest require elementary knowledge for SIM registration.

IN A USUALLY empty retail house simply across the nook from the field workplace within the MTC Dome at Swakopmund, a crowd of other folks just lately had their fingerprints scanned after which a photograph taken of their faces by means of MTC Namibia staff.

The similar was once taking place within the MTC Dome enviornment the place MTC Namibia officials had been additionally accepting bureaucracy, scanning hands and taking pictures of consumers of the four-day Namibia Sport Expo, which ran from 8 to 11 December.

Namibia’s greatest cellular and web carrier supplier used the chance to inspire its consumers to check in their SIM playing cards, with the cut-off date looming for necessary SIM card registration, 31 December 2022, simply weeks away.

Since the start of October, Namibians were referred to as directly to check in their SIM playing cards in order that by the point necessary SIM card registration is carried out, on 1 January 2023, they’re compliant and will proceed making use of cellular telecommunications and web products and services.

What was once putting about what was once taking place on the registration issues was once the gathering of fingerprint and facial biometric information.

The rules for Part 6 of Chapter 5 of the Communications Act of 2009, in addition to the additional stipulations on telecommunications licencees, require operators to gather elementary knowledge equivalent to names, dates of start, addresses, and copies of id paperwork to check in a SIM card.

There isn’t any point out of biometric knowledge being legally required or essential for SIM card registration.

Since the beginning of the three-month window length for SIM card registration on 1 October, there were public fear and discomfort concerning the amassing of biometric information to check in a SIM card.

DUBIOUS PRACTICE

These considerations were raised with the control of each the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) and MTC Namibia.

Cran’s control was once requested what the regulator’s place was once at the harvesting of biometric information by means of telecoms corporations for the aim of registering subscribers within the absence of legislated information coverage safeguards.

MTC Namibia was once requested on what criminal foundation it was once amassing biometric information.

In acknowledging receipt of the request for remark and responding to a follow-up e-mail, Cran spokesperson Jairus Kapenda mentioned: “Kindly note that the authority will provide a response in due course.”

Similarly, MTC Namibia’s Tim Ekandjo promised a reaction to the questions despatched on 21 December.

However, by the point of going to print the previous day, no reaction was once gained from both entity.

That mentioned, the problem is not just of fear in Namibia, however around the African continent.

In Kenya, since past due 2021, human rights defenders were combating the Kenyan regulator and the rustic’s biggest cellular operator, Safaricom, over the corporate’s illegal assortment of subscriber biometric information for SIM card registration.

After first siding with Safaricom and different cellular operators who were harvesting biometric information from subscribers, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) in April backtracked within the face of criminal demanding situations from civil society and participants of the general public, and conceded that Kenyans weren’t legally required to offer biometric information to check in their SIM playing cards.

Since then, Safaricom – which had stopped amassing biometric information in May 2022 – has been referred to as upon by means of human rights organisations and the Law Society of Kenya to delete the unlawful biometric database it had created all the way through its SIM card registration pressure.

In an open letter to Safaricom printed on-line on 14 December this yr, Africa’s campaigner for world human rights organisation Access Now, Jaimee Kokonya, as soon as once more referred to as at the corporate to delete the unlawful biometric database, pointing out: “Safaricom misrepresented the law’s requirements to people who subscribe to your services on several occasions between November 2021 and April 2022, informing them they were in fact required to provide facial biometrics to comply with SIM registration requirements, and warning that failure to do so would see your company disconnect their services. Collecting facial biometrics during this process is in clear violation of various laws.”

The factor of the unregulated or legally questionable amassing of biometric information was once additionally just lately spotlighted by means of the Uganda-based Collaboration on International Information and Communications Technology Policy for East and Southern Africa (Cipesa), in its September 2022 record, titled ‘The Rise of Biometric Surveillance’. The Cipesa record states {that a} function of biometric information assortment practices by means of African states and cellular operators has been a scarcity of transparency, and that “the public provides biometric data without question or prior informed consent, but out of necessity to acquire critical services”.

“Where there have been public campaigns, these have been carried out over short periods and sporadically, often with limited disclosures and misleading information on the technologies and the purpose of the programmes, coercive directives to ensure compliance without question, and mandatory in nature without provision of alternatives to registration and enlisting,” Cipesa provides.