On May 16, Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Minister of Railways, Communications, Electronics & Information Technology, launched the Sanchar Saathi Portal. This portal claims to provide four different services— blocking mobile numbers (Central Equipment Identity Register, CEIR), tracking mobile connections under your name, checking the genuineness of International Mobile Equipment Identity numbers (Know your mobile connection), and identifying fraudulent SIM subscribers (Artificial Intelligence and Facial Recognition powered Solution for Telecom SIM Subscriber Verification, ASTR). Why it matters: These services could help protect people from frauds such as identity theft, forged KYC, theft of mobile devices, and banking fraud. But not everything about this newly launched service is as beneficial as it seems. We have previously discussed how ASTR (which tracks SIM card holders using subscriber photos) gives the Department of Telecommunications access to one's personal information, which could be passed around to various other government departments as well. Facial recognition systems (like the ones used by ASTR) are known to have issues such as low accuracy rates, racial biases, and failure to detect aging. While the other two services under Sanchar Saathi seem helpful now, only time will tell whether they have any underlying issues as ASTR does. Key details of Sanchar Saathi’s services: CEIR: Those who lose their mobile devices must enter their IMEI number into the CEIR portal. They must also add a copy of their police complaint into the portal to verify the request. The authorities claim that if anyone tries to use the phone post-blocking, the system allows…
Government launches Sanchar Saathi Portal, claims it will help prevent fraud and identity theft
One of its features, ASTR, gives the Department of Telecommunications access to one’s personal information, which could be passed around to various other government departments as well
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