Need a New Number? Prepare to be Fingerprinted Starting in February

Photo: Chris Isherwood / Flickr

BANGKOK — Starting February, anyone registering a mobile SIM card must have their fingerprints taken, telecom regulators announced Monday.

Fingerprints will be collected from those buying new numbers while those already with SIM cards are not required to do so. Nonetheless they are encouraged to do so as the biometric registration is intended to improve security in the age of banking by phone, according to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

A top executive with the commission, Takorn Tantasith, said the mobile phones operators have agreed to absorb the costs of collecting fingerprints without passing it on to customers.

Software to manage the system is being developed by Kasetsart University and is expected to be ready by January, Takorn said.

Takorn said the registration targets the 14 million numbers used for mobile payments of the 110 million numbers in use.

The plan was first announced in August following a notorious case in which a man was robbed of nearly 1 million baht from his bank account through mobile banking. Phansuthi Meeluekij said the perpetrators used a fake ID to get his mobile operator to issue a replacement SIM card for his phone number. The thieves then changed the password of his Kasikornbank mobile banking account and transferred all his money out.

The case raised concerns about the new national PromptPay system, which the government and private sector was set to launch last month before suddenly putting it on hold until some time next year.

The fingerprint identity verification system was suggested by Takorn, who earlier this year sparked controversy by calling for tracking the locations of foreigners with a special SIM card. The plan soon stalled.

Takorn proposed the fingerprint system to restore faith in mobile banking, along with better data-sharing between telecoms and banks.

Acknowledging the policy would create more cost for operators, Takorn said the commission will consider a reduction in annual fees they pay.

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