Home Ministry of India leaves no occasion to strengthen its e-surveillance arsenal from time to time. The latest to add to this list is the request from Home Ministry to the Department of Telecommunication (DOT) to explore the possibility of making it mandatory for cellphone service providers to take fingerprints or any other biometric feature of the subscriber before activating the mobile numbers.
Home Ministry has also suggested that DOT may also maintain a central database comprising biometric features of all subscribers and opt for linking it with the National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) for keeping those data at one place from national security point of view.
The Central Monitoring System is already in operation without any parliamentary Oversight and legal framework. Even the national cyber security policy (NSCP) of India 2013 has failed to protect privacy rights and civil liberties in Indian cyberspace.
Similarly, the Unconstitutional Aadhaar project has already been challenged before various High Courts in India. Aadhaar project has serious cyber security and data security issues that are still unresolved. The truth is that biometric collection in India is done in an illegal and unconstitutional manner as on date.
In these circumstances tying up the SIM cards activation with biometrics details is another attempt of Indian government to expand its e-surveillance capabilities. The DOT had last year made it mandatory for a mobile service provider to physically verify an applicant before issuing a SIM card. But practical difficulties have forced non compliance with this requirement.
The present idea of using biometric details while activating a SIM card is one of the worst ideas that have been suggested for implementation and it is bound to be a big failure.