Your fingerprint will soon be required on your phone for a whole lot more than unlocking it. Thailand plans to start making it compulsory for new prepaid or postpaid SIM card buyers to register their fingerprints. Users’ prints will go into a national database, allowing the identity of each phone user to be traced. In addition to SIM cards, mobile operators will also launch apps to verify fingerprints, allowing them to match the fingerprint of the device user to the one that bought the SIM card. The move is meant to boost mobile banking security and reduce the risk of fraud, says Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.
The NBTC has said that the fingerprint plan is meant to help verify identities during sensitive transactions such as mobile banking or digital payment. This decision comes after an increasing number of fraud cases through mobile banking apps over the past few months, as online scams become more sophisticated. Thailand currently has 103 million mobile phone subscribers, 14 million of whom use mobile banking services. It is not compulsory for those who already own SIM cards to be fingerprinted, though they are being urged to participate.
The government’s directive extends beyond traditional carriers to mobile virtual network operators (MVNO), which typically rent infrastructure from phone companies. These MVNOs are not happy with the move, which is expected to cost some $30 to $60 per registration. They say that the ruling will impose additional costs and make it hard for them to compete with bigger mobile carriers.
But officials say the cost of the fingerprint system can be deducted from a compulsory annual operating fee paid to the NBTC.