Users will also be able to know if their phones have been imported through the legal channel
Stolen phones can be shut down soon as the government introduces new technology to regulate the industry.
On Tuesday, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) will inaugurate its IMEI database and a short code to know whether their phones are legally imported or not.
The Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association (BMPIA) is helping the telecom regulator to implement the initiative — registering every single handset in the country to prevent consumers from using duplicate or fake handsets.
The database is expected to help ensure national security, increasing revenue of the government by preventing illegal entry of handsets, and decreasing mobile phone-based crimes.
The IMEI database will list phones in three categories — black, white and grey. The central server will be installed in the BTRC headquarters.
“White” denotes all types of handsets legally imported and manufactured in the country and registered with the BTRC. “Grey” denotes suspicious mobile handsets about which the operators will be warned. Lastly “black” refers to stolen handsets and phones with expired or fake IMEIs.
Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar will inaugurate the short code “16002” at the BTRC office on Tuesday.
Once the code is introduced, the users can identify whether their handset is registered with the BTRC’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number database or not.
The users will first have to know their IMEI number by dialling *#06#. For phones with dual-SIM capabilities, there will be two numbers, any one of which can be sent to the short code to identify its legal status.
Once the handset is registered with the database, the users can lock their handsets with the help of BTRC if stolen.
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The database will help restrict production of duplicate and fake handsets, prevent illegal imports, cloning and theft, increase government revenue and ensure national security, Senior Assistant Director of BTRC Zakir Hossain Khan told the Dhaka Tribune.
He said more details will be provided after the database has been inaugurated.
According to the BMPIA, there was a demand of about 100 million mobile phones last year, and around 20 million of them had entered the market illegally, while the BTRC annual report states that 25-30 million mobile phones are imported every year.
Earlier on August 2017, BTRC took the move to create a central database of mobile phone IMEI numbers in a bid to track criminals who are using illegally-imported handsets.
Will it hurt privacy?
Since the announcement, general public and rights activists have expressed concern saying people’s privacy and rights will be violated.
Many have expressed that the government should collect only the information vital to national security, but not personal information, as it will violate people’s right to freedom.
Intelligence agencies have their own technology to track criminals who are threats to national security, but they do not need to monitor everyone’s personal life, as disclosed to the Dhaka Tribune.
Preventing illegal entry of mobile handsets and ensuring national security, all the while protecting the consumers’ personal information — that will be the biggest challenge, several experts have pointed out.
IT experts pointed out that the system of handset registration is not to record personal information of consumers along with the IMEI number, as law enforcement agencies can also ensure security by using the technology that they possess.
Industry insiders said once the database is created, the whole security system will come under a single platform, assisting law enforcers in their search for criminals.
The government has acted on mobile-phone oriented crime before, introducing a biometric SIM registration process in 2016.
What is IMEI?
IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a 15-digit unique code given to every single mobile phone, typically found behind the battery.
IMEI numbers connected to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network are stored in a database containing all valid mobile phone equipment. When a phone is reported stolen or is not type approved, the number is marked invalid.