In a bid to combat electronic fraud, Thailand is making biometric checks mandatory for all those obtaining new SIM cards. Authorities say the data will be kept "private and safe."
People in Thailand who want to obtain a new SIM card will be required to undergo facial or fingerprint scans as of December 15, the country's telecoms regulator said on Monday.
The nationwide rollout of the system follows a successful trial run since June in the capital, Bangkok, and Thailand's restive south, where separatist insurgents have carried out many bomb attacks using mobile phones to trigger the explosive devices, the regulator said.
However, regulatory official Takorn Tantasith said biometric registration was being introduced nationwide mainly to enhance mobile banking security.
"This is not aimed at tracking users, but enhancing security, especially in the case of mobile payments, " Takorn said.
"You can rest assured that all personal data will be kept private and safe," Takorn added.
Currently, SIM cards for post-paid accounts are registered on purchase, while pre-paid cards require no identification when they are bought. The new system will require the biometric scans for both types.
Takorn said Thai nationals buying a new SIM card would have their fingerprints matched against data stored on their national identification cards. Facial scans might alternatively be used to verify identity, if the respective service center or retailer had the necessary equipment.
Foreigners buying SIM cards in Thailand will have their faces scanned and matched against their passport photographs.
Those who already have SIM cards will not be subjected to the scans.
Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia all have similar biometric systems in place.
tj/kms (Reuters, dpa)