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HOUSE PANEL EYES ON BILL REQUIRING SIM CARD REGISTRATION

 The House Committee on Information and Communications Technology panel approved at a hearing a bill mandating the registration of mobile Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards. 



The House Panel, chaired by Rep. Toby Tiangco approved the consolidated House Bill No. 14 with similar bills also seeking the registration of SIM cards.



If it will be passed into law, the bill mandates those who intend to purchase SIM cards to register their personal information in the telecommunication body or authorize sellers of the card. The Public telecommunication entity or direct seller must require the SIM card user to present a valid identification document with a photo to ascertain his/her identity.



"While private telecommunications providers are able to block mobile numbers that repeatedly send spam messages, the accessibility of getting SIM cards only prompts scammers to purchase new SIM cards and continue their operations. Furthermore, due to the lack of SIM card regulation in the country, it becomes nearly impossible to trace the persons behind the text scams and hold them accountable for fraud, breach of data privacy or other punishable offenses t ha t they commit ted using an unknown mobile number," Romualdez said in his explanatory note.


The bill that requires SIM card registration will help eliminate criminal activities and scams that users have been inundated which some of which contain personal information like the receiver's name.



"The time has come to regulate the sale and distribution of SIM cards in order to promote end-user accountability, prevent the proliferation of mobile phone scams and data breaches, and to assist law enforcement agencies in resolving crimes involving the use of mobile phone units. In view of the foregoing, the immediate approval of this bill is earnestly sought," Romualdez added.


President Rodrigo Duterte vetoed the same action in the 18th Congress, with his spokesperson saying the chief executive was "restrained to disagree with the inclusion of social media in the measure, without providing proper guidelines and definitions." The bill also required the registration of social media accounts, which Duterte said might intrude on privacy rights.



The bill raised apprehensions among cybersecurity and privacy experts earlier. Policy analyst Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos said that the bill might do more disadvantageous than exemplary as there is no evidence that SIM card registration prevents crime.



Secretary Ivan Uy of the Department of Information and Communications Technology conceded that the spate of spam text messages, which contain the full names of the subscribers, are tough to trace.


"It is difficult to pinpoint where that exactly came from, even the ones we are seeing now with the scam, phishing [link] with name [of the subscriber] on it. There could be a leak," he said.


Secretary Ivan Uy said DICT is already working with messaging apps and online wallet firms to determine where the possible leak came from.



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