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HC clears biometric registration

The High Court yesterday cleared way for the mobile carriers to continue with the biometric registration of SIM cards.

Declaring the biometric registration system of SIM cards legal, the court ordered the authorities concerned to strictly protect customers' confidential information obtained during the registration process so that their privacy and safety were not compromised in any way.

Delivering the verdict on a writ petition, the HC bench of Justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Justice AKM Shahidul Huq also directed the carriers to strictly follow the directives of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission in this regard.

Under the BTRC's rules, fingerprints of citizens cannot be preserved in any form, BTRC's lawyer Khandaker Reza-E-Raquib told The Daily Star.

Citing the HC directives, he said the carriers have to maintain highest alert in protecting the confidential data of the customers. Under the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Act, the BTRC can impose a fine of Tk 300 crore on any carrier if it fails to protect the confidential information, the lawyer added.

Additional Attorney General Murad Reza told reporters that the registration of subscriber identity module (SIM) cards through biometric system will continue following the HC verdict.

Talking to this correspondent, petitioner's counsel Mucktadir Rahman said they will decide on filing an appeal with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court after receiving the full text of the HC judgment. 

The HC came up with the verdict after disposing of the writ petition filed by SM Anamul Haque, a SC lawyer.

He submitted the petition as public interest litigation on March 9 saying that collection of such private information of citizens by the carriers was not safe.

There is no specific law in the country for protecting such data and information, and therefore, the carriers should be barred from collecting fingerprints and data of their subscribers until a proper security system was introduced to protect personal information, he said in the petition. 

Biometric registration of SIM cards began in December last year. The government's move drew skepticism from subscribers about potential misuse of information.

State Minister for Telecommunications Tarana Halim has repeatedly called upon mobile phone subscribers to register their SIM cards biometrically by April 30. She warned the unregistered subscribers of terminating their connections on expiry of the deadline.