Sunday, June 25, 2023

SIM Card Registration in the Philippines: My Thoughts

To readers from the Philippines, have you registered your SIM card yet? As we all know, July 25th is the deadline for registration of your SIM cards in compliance with the SIM Registration Act. This is the Philippine government’s way of attempting to curb cybercrime in the country and address issues regarding hate speech, disinformation, and abuse that use mobile phones. I guess the idea is that if people can be easily identified by their mobile numbers it would be harder for them to scam or troll people. 

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

As someone who has had experience with a stranger who used to text and call me incessantly, I appreciate the intent of this, if this is what it is about. I remember having such a difficult time with this person. I couldn’t change my number because I was on a planned line, and it was a number I also used for work so I had a lot of important contacts I would have to inform if I were to change my number. I tried ignoring the calls and the texts, but they got to the point where they were so creepy that I had to reach out for help. A friend had referred me to a government agency to try to block the person’s number, or at the very least, have some government entity to report the harassment to. It was a long and difficult experience and I guess because there were no laws yet regarding issues like this, nothing was done about it and I gave up my phone line/number (and even switched networks) to get rid of this person.

While I see the possible benefits of this, I also understand other people's concerns about it. Having a government agency have access to the phone numbers and other personal details of almost everyone in the country (because almost everyone has a phone) is a lot of power for one group of people to have. There are so many privacy concerns that are understandable. Yes, we should trust our government, but also yes, not everyone in the government can be trusted. How can we be sure that these names and numbers will not be sold by some “enterprising” person to a new set of scammers who will bombard us with phishing texts and whatnot? Given how surprising it is right now that some of these people already have our names and numbers and are texting us with scams daily, what more when there is a consolidated list of EVERYONE out there? It’s a scary thought, but it is possible. Plus, there are also parents concerned with registering their children’s numbers. The number may be under the name of the guardian/parent, but I think it is natural for a parent to have some concerns about sharing their child’s number. 

According to the SIM Registration Act, any number that was not registered by the July 25 deadline will be discontinued/disconnected permanently. This is why everyone is being urged to register their numbers as soon as possible. Phone networks from my experience have done their best to make the registration process as easy as possible for all users. People can register online and for those who are not as internet-savvy, there is the option to register with their assistance at the nearest branch of their network. There is also a much easier option for those who are currently signed up for a phone plan because the networks already have all their details, and all the person must do is give their consent for the network to forward their info as their compliance with the registration requirement. 

If you search the number of people who have registered their sim cards compared to the number of active mobile numbers in the country, it is estimated that 49.31% have already registered as of April 23rd. That is not even half of the active mobile numbers. I think this is why the deadline for registration was extended to July. The government is hoping that more people would register. I think many have their concerns that make them hesitate and there may be some who just do not understand the impact of not registering their numbers by the deadline. I have had my number for years; I can’t imagine changing it because it got disconnected due to my not registering it. If there is a bit of a hassle registering to comply with the registration act, it is an even worse inconvenience to change your number and inform everyone concerned of that change later if you didn’t do it and got your number disconnected. 

At this point, I don’t think anyone really has a choice. It is a law, after all. Register or deal with the inconvenience that follows. You would have to register your new sim if you got one anyway. Same thing. I have already registered. I just hope that the data I have provided would be used correctly and that this law can help us avoid these spam texts and calls. Fingers crossed.


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