Bangladesh sets hefty fines for misuse of biometrics data on SIM cards

The Bangladesh government has assured mobile phone users that their privacy would not be in jeopardy after they undergo biometric registration of their SIM cards and if there is any misuse of their personal data, carriers could be fined up to Tk 300 crore ($38.3M USD). “The cabinet has assured that there is no scope for misuse of the fingerprints of the subscribers and they need not be worried to this end,” Cabinet Secretary M Shafiul Alam said after the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, according to a report in the Daily Star.

The State Minister for Post and Telecommunication told the meeting that as per the telecommunication act, carriers cannot use or release personal data of users and if any carrier violated the act, there is a provision for a Tk-300-crore fine. Furthermore, the carriers have no mechanism to preserve the fingerprints of the subscribers, said the Minister. Mobile operators collect the fingerprints for verification with the National ID database but are not responsible for storing the data.

In a separate announcement, the Telecommunication Minister revealed that SIM registration will soon be available at the more than 9,000 post offices in Bangladesh and that officials abroad and expatriates can also have their SIM cards registered at Bangladesh embassies abroad. SIMs already in use also have to be registered, which involves scanning the user’s index finger and thumb to avoid deactivation after April 30. SIM cards that are not re-registered by April 30 will be disconnected but subscribers will still be able to register their SIM cards later on. Last year, the Bangladesh government decided to scrutinize subscribers’ data and ordered the biometric registration in the face of mounting complaints of fake and unregistered SIM cards being used for criminal activities.