SIM card re-registration: NIA letter raises legality & data sanctity issues

A letter from the National Identification Authority (NIA) purported to be a response to the National Communications Authority (NCA) on the processes that led to the ongoing compulsory SIM re-registration exercise, has raised questions about the legality and sanctity of the process.

The 13th September, 2021 NIA letter responded to three key issues, one of which was to confirm whether or not “the biometric data to be collected by the NCA for the purpose of SIM registration is in a format, and of sufficiently high quality for successful verification against the National Identity System”. The NIA answered in the negative.

“The design and development of the process by which the National Communications Authority (NCA), acting by itself or through a third party, will collect and store biometric data of SIM card holders is exclusive to the NCA. NIA does not have any input in the development of the said Android Registration Application. NIA is unable to confirm that the biometric data to be collected by the NCA for the purpose described above will meet the standard to enable successful verification against the National Identification System (NIS) database” parts of the letter reads.  

The NIA, citing Regulation 7 of the National Identity Register Regulations, 2012 (L.I 2111) argued it is the institution responsible for verifying the identity of all persons who seek to partake in transactions which require the verification of identity, as such an exercise of that nature requires their involvement.

The NIA said it has entered into a Public Private Partnership Agreement with Messers, Identity Management Systems II Limited, its technical partner, to develop and manage a state-of-the-art Biometric Verification Platform which guarantees the highest security and meets the highest international standards for use by all agencies to confirm the identity of their clients during transactions which require proof of identity.  

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The NIA also said it cannot “endorse or guarantee the quality of the biometrics to be captured by NCA (during the SIM card registration exercise) with devices NIA has not duly certified.

Find the full letter below: