DoT plans cell for safeguarding consumers against theft of phones and data on them

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Government is planning to set up a registry of IMEI numbers to safeguard consumer’s mobile phones and private data on them from theft. These IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers will be a central system where all carriers will be able to share data on lost or stolen phones, as a result preventing such phones from getting activated again even if SIM card is changed.

On Tuesday, the telecom department Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) said in a notification that they will start a six-month pilot of the Central Equipment Identify Register (CEIR), terming the loss mobile phone as a risk to person and national security. The broad intention of the plan is to safeguard consumer interest, curtail counterfeit mobile phone market, detect cloning of phones, discourage mobile phone theft and allow lawful interception, when needed.

The department said that “The theft and cloning of mobile phones has become a serious problem, it is not just a financial loss but also a threat to personal life of citizens and national security. A substantial number of counterfeit phones are active in our mobile networks with fake IMEI numbers, which are illegal copies of popular brands and models, and affect the quality of service to consumers,”.

They also added “They pose health risks as they have not been tested against safety standards and may emit higher levels of radiation than recommended. Law enforcement agencies also face problems of lawful interception when they seek to intercept based on mobile equipment identity,”

IMEI is a unique 15 digit number assigned to each mobile phone; this identifies the make, model and manufacturer and helps not only in tracking a phone but also tracking the calls by law enforcement agencies as well. Equipment identity register (EIR) is provided to all mobile networks which includes all authorized IMEIs under white list, non-conforming phones under gray list and stolen or lost phones under a black list.

Under Central Equipment Identify Register, all mobile operators will share these lists with each other, ensuring consumer safety and national security, thus making sure that a phone on one’s operator network does not get activated on the other.

DoT (Department of Telecommunications) is coming down hard on making it a punishable offence with up to three years of imprisonment. The DoT has barred telecom operators from providing service to any mobile phone with forged IMEI number but the operators are facing problem in identifying handsets with same IMEI number.

Before introducing it across the country, the department has proposed to have a pilot in Maharashtra, to be done by Pune team of BSNL, which once completed over a 6 month period, will be rolled out to all operators in Maharashtra. BSNL users call detail records will be utilized for the plan.

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Himani Sharma, From ITvoir News Desk

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