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Govt to soon release IMEI database to track stolen phones

Smartphone usage is one the rise, and there is hardly a task which cannot be done using the phone. However, with all the personal data on it, a phone getting stolen or lost puts one in a vulnerable position.

To address this issue, the Telecom Ministry is
releasing a database of IMEIs which will not only help one track their phone, but also prevent misuse of personal data in event of theft or loss.

The ministry will roll out the Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) which makes up the database of International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEIs) having 15-digit numbers uniquely identifying each mobile phone, The Indian Express has reported.

How would this work?

Once launched, if your mobile phone is lost or stolen, you can notify the Department of Telecom (DoT) through a helpline number after filing a police complaint. Following this, the DoT will then blacklist the 15-digit IMEI number, essentially blocking anyone from accessing any cellular network from the mobile device in the future. Apart from this, India’s CEIR is focusing on facilitating “IMEI-based lawful interception”, says the report by the Indian Express.

As per TRAI data, India had 1.16 billion wireless subscribers till March 2019.

The DoT had first announced its plan to enforce this project in July 2017 and a rundown was held in Maharashtra.

The stealing and cloning of mobile phones is a serious issue. Loss of a phone also poses a threat to personal life of the people and national security.

Moreover, the counterfeit phones in the market is another problem for DoT. Many counterfeit mobile phones are active in the mobile networks with fake IMEI numbers, a DoT office memorandum underlining the project, accessed by the publication, stated.

The plan to make a registry of mobile identification numbers first originated in the National Telecom Policy-2012 in India. A trial for the project was structured and held by state-owned BSNL’s IT Project Service unit in Maharashtra’s Pune.

Centre alloted Rs 15 crore to the DoT for the CEIR project in the interim budget for 2019-20.

The white, grey and black of it all

Keeping with international practices, DoT’s registry will be made up of a database of IMEI numbers which will comprise of three lists – black, white and grey. Mobile devices with IMEI numbers in the white list will be phones that can be used, bought or sold, whereas the ones in the blacklist will consist of stolen or lost devices and will not be permitted to access the cellular network. However, the grey list has conditions for the users. Mobile phones with IMEI numbers, but not conforming to standards, would be put in the grey list and will be allowed to connect to the network under supervision.

The idea of a central identity registry has been endorsed by the GSM Association (GSMA), an organisation that represents mobile operators, software/internet companies, equipment manufacturers, among other stakeholders in the telecom industry.


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