MTN Ghana says it will begin the complete disconnection on 1 December 2022 of all SIM cards that have not fully completed the process of linking users’ SIMs with their identity cards, complying with the government directive. Approximately 5.7 million subscribers will be eligible for deactivation.
The mandatory registration process has two stages. The first requires users to link their SIM to their Ghana Card, the country’s national identification card, while the second required citizens to scan their biometric data into the system so it can be linked with both their national ID and their SIM card.
Customers have six months to complete the registration process and reactivate their SIM. After that, deactivated SIMs will cease to function completely and their associated numbers will be recycled. MTN has urged customers who are not fully registered to do so as soon as possible at any of its service centers.
Ghana’s effort to curb fraud began back in October 2021. SIM card swap fraud, where criminals get a customer’s phone number assigned to a new SIM card and then use it to access the customer’s bank account and other services, is admittedly a major problem in Ghana and elsewhere. However, as a solution, requiring citizens to register their SIM and biometric data with the government seems a bit extreme.
In addition to the privacy concerns raised by the forced registration of citizens’ biometric and SIM card information, and the human rights issues of cutting off communication access mentioned by some legal critics, there is also the issue of operators being forced to lose existing customers through the government-mandated deactivation of SIM cards. Those customers will then need to be reacquired at the operators’ own expense.
This is a story that deserves careful attention from operators as it unfolds, particularly in places like the European Union, where digital ID standardization is currently under development.