SIM card registration unable to curb crime

• BY UAUEZA KANGUATJIVI

LEGAL experts in Namibia have suggested that the mandatory registration
of SIM card would jeorpadise security and privacy of citizens. They say there is no evidence that compulsory registration of personal information with mobile service providers will curb digital crime.

The experts were speaking at UNAM panel discussion on SIM card registration surveillance and digital storage of communication.

Legal Practitioner of the High Court and CRAN Corporate Advice Manager, Ruusa Ntinda, said, “Although phones have become a part of us and of the crimes that affect us, the world is changing into a direction where everything is on a digital footprint.”

German Engineer, Economist and founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, said “I’m an economist not a lawyer but
I think mandatory SIM card enrollment might work in formal settlements such as Windhoek and Oshakati but might not work in the informal settlements.”

“A lot of citizens living in the informal settlements do not have identification documents; this creates room for exclusion and does not leave room for them to go and register” Schwab added.

Research Associate of Namibia’s Institute of Public Policy Research, Federico Links, expressed concerns about the violation of citizens’ privacy. “Cyber crime is just continuing to grow. Countries are introducing this SIM registration, but it has not been able to curb crime”, Links said.

“The Namibian government should know that people feel strongly about their communication privacy. Therefore, mandatory registration would be a violation of their privacy.

“Reports and literature updates show how governments are abusing this for the monitoring and tracking of people. SIM card registration has previously been used to target journalists and other human rights defenders”, Links added.

A fourth year (UNAM) Law student , Marius Viljoen, said, “ SIM card registration, surveillance and digital storage all use a central database which exposes people to criminals. Therefore it is important to protect this information not just with laws but with data as well.”

“There are two sides of the coin, the first being no evidence globally supports that SIM card registration has successfully helped curb cyber crime. On the flip side it has assisted in issuing search warrants to suspects charged with a criminal office”, Viljoen said.

UNAM final year Law student, Karen Lee, said, “discourse and debate on the topic of human rights is necessary when the right to privacy and the right to freedom of speech are infringed upon.”

Patience Kanalelo, head of corporate Legal Services, MTC and Legal Practioner of the High Court informed the audience that MTC uses a Biometeric SIM registration. “In the event that an individual does not have an ID the biometric system and birth certificate are used capture a photo and create a digital ID.

“Criminals are clever but, MTC does penetration cleansing to ensure hackers cannot bypass personal information. This has worked for the past 4 years. The data protection act would be ideal together with the CyberSecurity Act”, Kanalelo added

To date, Namibia remains one of two countries in the world that have not fully implemented SIM registration.