ICASA proposes plans to implement biometric onboarding measures for South African phone users


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In an attempt to mitigate fraudulent activity, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has reportedly proposed plans to link the biometric data of South African phone users to their SIM cards.

Should such remote biometric onboarding measures be implemented, the fingerprint of a user – or other forms of stored biometric data, such as face and retina scans – could be tied to a person’s SIM card and phone number.

Though the news has caused privacy concerns in South Africa, experts working in the field of biometrics have been quick to show their support for ICASA.

In an article published by BusinessTech, Gur Geva, Chief Executive of iiDENTIFii, claimed: “Because biometric technology only started making its way into the mainstream relatively recently, consumers are still unsure of what the technology entails and how it may be used. This, naturally, leads to some misconceptions and fears.”

Geva explained that this new measure would not be a means of surveillance, but instead a form of verification and account authentication.

“The reality is that opt-in biometrics are the most secure way to identify someone – and keep their information and identity safe from misuse – and these differ a great deal from biometrics used for surveillance.

“Remote biometric onboarding links a person’s biometric data, whether their face or fingerprint, to their account so that they, and only they, can access the account safely and securely.

“When someone has a copy of your ID, they already have your biometric data – an image of your face. How biometric data is managed by mobile operators would still be subject to strict privacy laws laid out in the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines.”

“Biometrics, on the other hand, provide a seamless experience where onboarding no longer requires account details, an ID book, fingerprints and more.

“Now, you can add your ID number, hold your phone up to your face for liveness detection and link your SIM. And yet, it’s safer, because no one except you will be able to perform a SIM swap or take out an additional line without this direct biometric link.”

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