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SIM registration

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The deadline for the registration of subscriber identity module (SIM) cards is tomorrow, April 26, and according to the SIM Registration Act, if the registration period is not extended for a period not exceeding 120 days, the SIM cards that remain unregistered after the deadline will be automatically deactivated.

Based on the latest tally of the National Telecommunications Commission, 75.5 million SIM cards have been registered as of April 19 – seven days before the deadline. That may sound like a big number, but it only accounts for 44.97 percent of all existing SIM cards in use in the country.

I must admit that I am among the late adopters of SIM registration, mainly because I don’t trust the government’s cybersecurity to give it even more of my personal information. But with the deadline coming up and the threat of SIM cards being deactivated, I had no choice but to register all my SIMs, which were surprisingly plentiful, because it just wasn’t worth the risk of the inconvenience of losing the functionality of the SIMs in this world that are connected to me and my family, especially when we are so dependent on that little chip and the data and connections they facilitate.

Although one network did it better than the other, SIM registration was thankfully relatively easy, as long as you had an internet connection. The other network, which unfortunately for me is the one most of my family members use, had difficulty scanning the IDs during the online registration process, making us retry that part multiple times. That was probably the biggest hitch we encountered during the fairly straightforward registration process.

The other thing I realized during SIM registration was just how many SIMs I have in my household, considering that I don’t even use a dual SIM phone and have had only one SIM / mobile number for most of my adult life. I have one SIM in my phone, one SIM in the home wifi device that we use as back up for the home network. I had my two teenaged kids try to register their SIMs, but it turns out minors cannot register yet, so those were also linked to me. Our family’s tablets are also SIM-ready, but they don’t have SIMs, so we didn’t have to worry about those. Registering all these SIMs made me think how much more work it would have been for the super-techie households, but since those guys already have to deal with the monthly subscriptions and data plans, I’m guessing they are already much better at SIM-management that I am.

The number of devices that have SIMs in one household explains why the 75.5 million registered SIM cards comprises of only 44.9 percent of the total active SIMs in the country. We are essentially 1-SIM and 1-backup data device family, but I can imagine how many SIMs need to be registered for families that max out their SIM slots for whatever reason, along with those who feel the need to put SIM cards in the multiple data-capable devices they own, aside from their mobile phones.

By the day after tomorrow, we will know if government will make good on its threat to deactivate the unregistered SIMs in the country or if it will cave and extend the registration period, which the law supposedly allows.

If unregistered SIMs are deactivated, then we will see which one among our friends and family suddenly cannot be reached. Although I suspect that the most affected by the SIM registration process and its penalty will be the poorest of the poor Filipinos who either don’t have data, or those who live in remote areas where data is spotty. The people who crafted the law and its implementing rules and regulations probably don’t care about these marginal folk, but losing signal, data, and the ability to connect with the outside world will probably be a big deal for the millions of Filipinos who were somehow unable to register before the deadline.

Once only the registered SIMs are allowed to function, we should also hopefully reap the benefits of the law, by getting less scams and fraudsters invading our phones. Hopefully this benefit is worth the price of giving up a bit of our privacy and personal information to the government, and hopefully the information gathered by the SIM registration will be continually protected from attacks and leaks that could undermine our society. This is scariest part for me, as our country’s cybersecurity doesn’t seem to have a particularly impressive record, especially if you consider the COMELEC leaks, and the latest data hack involving PNP, NBI, and BIR records.

But, because government mandated it, we have no choice but to do it, even if we can’t trust their security, because if we don’t, we’d be basically locked out from everything in this electronic-dependent world.

So good luck to us. Hopefully we beat the deadline and enjoy all the benefits of SIM registration, and our government holds up its end of the deal to protect our data and other potential disadvantages.*

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