Geva says the technology behind binding biometrics to SIM cards is well-established and, crucially, is safe and secure.
“Biometric technology is already a common security feature offered by financial service providers like banks and insurers to protect consumers. The proposed regulations are far more sophisticated than current Rica laws in terms of protecting South Africans against fraud.”
The communications regulator says stricter security measures are required to curb the hijacking of mobile phone numbers either through porting or via a SIM swap transaction, among other instances of fraudulent activity.
“How biometric data is managed by mobile operators would still be subject to strict privacy laws laid out in the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines. Raw biometric data wouldn’t be stored so citizens can rest assured their information is encrypted and non-transferable,” he says.
“Biometric authentication, together with liveness detection, is a powerful weapon in the fight against identity fraud which is on the increase and costs the South African economy at least R1bn each year.”
The move towards biometrics has several other important benefits beyond combatting identity fraud.
“Government departments like Home Affairs and Social Development would be able to ensure grants, documents, and other communication reaches the intended recipient. There are also massive opportunities within the digital payments space as remote biometrics enable access to services that have the potential to make a meaningful impact on financial inclusion. As most South African adults own a mobile phone, biometrics takes the friction out of the payment process, making transactions easy, instant, and secure,” says Geva.
He adds that biometrics technology is being used extensively to modernise ID systems in over 30 countries across the globe as governments look to increase efficiencies in key processes within social services, tax management, and border control while eliminating instances of ID duplication fraud.