REPUBLIC Act 11934 also known as an “Act Requiring the Registration of Subscriber Identity Module” has now been officially implemented and would require all cellphone users to register their SIM cards within 180 days else it would be deactivated.
The law, for all the negative feedback it has received from concerned sectors, is actually one way to reduce the possibility of cellphone users from being duped by false and misleading text messages or calls and thus avoid being victims of so-called ‘scammers’ or those who would commit the crime of identity theft. This is the gravamen used by Senator Loren Legarda, the original proponent of the law, as basis for her legislative proposal. In her explanatory note, she gave emphasis on the reason why SIM cards should be registered, stating, “Given the importance of this measure in minimizing the opportunity for certain parties to exploit the anonymity provided by prepaid SIMs for malicious and criminal intent.”
So basically the law requiring SIM card registration is to make sure that the anonymity afforded by pre-paid SIM card is no longer available and thus avoid being taken advantage of by those with criminal intent.
On the matter of what the law intends to prevent and on a more specific subject, it is important to understand that in the ordinary usage of cellphones, a user is supposed and intended to receive only those text messages and calls which are related to and sometimes intimately connected to his or her preference. Thus any message or call that a cellphone user receives not belonging to those in his/her preference can be termed as “unwanted”.
The term “spam” as defined is “any kind of unwanted, unsolicited digital communication that gets sent out in bulk. Often spam is sent via email, but it can also be distributed via text messages, phone calls, or social media.” (https://www.malwarebytes.com/spam)
This is just one of the things that RA 11934 seeks to reduce or prevent its commission against registered SIM card users. The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in Davao has an explanation on how the said law can prevent or curb the proliferation of short message services (SMS), scams and spam messages pointing out that “by validating the identity of mobile phone users and their respective phone numbers, tracking entities behind phone scams will become much easier.”
On the issue of identity theft it was also explained that keeping a centralized archive of mobile phone users and telecommunication customers will prevent this from happening. It will be recalled that it was the NTC, in coordination with other concerned agencies, which issued the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR)
The one big remaining issue concerning the registration of SIM cards is the matter on privacy rights, but in so far as the government is concerned especially in the implementation of other related programs such as the national identification project or registration with various government agencies and offices such as the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Philippine Health Insurance (Philhealth), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), etc., the matter of privacy rights is overcome in favor of the benefits to be received.
This is the same thing with the registration of SIM cards in that in exchange for the added layer of protection against scammers and thieves of identity cellphone, users are required to provide some personal details in their registration.
Of course we will have to wait and see how effective the law will be against those with malicious and criminal intent against cellphone users who have registered their SIM cards, but right now all of those who use cellphones will have to register their SIM cards in compliance with the law and if they intend to continue using that kind of communication technology.
While provisions on social media registration are not in the signed version of the law, there are other concerns by the public which could be detrimental to privacy rights alongside a crackdown on scammers.
Pros of registering SIM cards
Telcos and direct sellers of SIM cards will only sell cards to people who present a valid photo ID, ensuring that the sold SIM card will belong to the said individual.
After signing the SIM Card Registration act into law, Marcos Jr. said that any registered information “shall be treated as absolutely confidential unless access to this information has been granted with the written consent of the subscriber.”
Related: Said to curb spam texts and crime, SIM card registration now a law
SIM card registration for minors will bear the names of a consenting parent or guardian, according to a copy of the Senate bill on third reading.
Telcos will be required to submit a verified list of their dealers nationwide, and the National Telecommunications Commission will require firms to submit an updated list quarterly.
Data privacy leaks and other cons
As brought up by IT experts and ICT rights advocates, RA 11934 could intrude on users’ privacy and might not be effective in discouraging scams and crimes via text messages or phones.
Cybersecurity policy analyst Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos told Philstar.com last February that registering SIM cards “has the potential to put the security, privacy, and welfare of citizens at risk,” citing experiences from other developing countries and the European Union, thereby posing more risks than benefits.
Related: A new law now requires SIM card registration. What happens next?
Mirandilla-Santos added that having a central database for subscribers’ information will become an attractive target for cyber attackers and 100 percent security cannot be guaranteed.
Another thing Villasoto pointed out is that some subscribers may be digitally, socially, or financially excluded if they are unable to register their SIM cards due to having no valid IDs or cannot shoulder the additional registration costs.
Criminals may also be able to use stolen SIM cards or IDs, emails, and mobile numbers of different countries to commit cyberattacks, identity theft, online fraud, and data breaches, not to mention that registered users may be the subject of surveillance. — With reports from Kaycee Valmonte, Xave Gregorio, Ramon Royandoyan, and Angelica Yang