Mandatory SIM card registration laws require people to provide personal information, including a valid ID or even their biometrics, as a condition for purchasing or activating a SIM card. Such a requirement allows the state to identify the owner of a SIM card and infer who is most likely making a call or sending a message at any given time.
SIM card registration undermines peoples’ ability to communicate anonymously, organise, and associate with others, and it infringes their rights to privacy and freedom of expression. By making it easier for law enforcement authorities to track and monitor people, these laws threaten vulnerable groups and facilitate generalised surveillance. People who lack ID, or who do not want to or are unable to disclose such personal information, are excluded from important spheres for formulating and sharing ideas: roughly 1 billion people around the world lack a valid form of government ID and could be prevented from purchasing a SIM card as a result, and journalists, human rights defenders, and people from marginalized or minority communities may fear harassment, intimidation, violence, or persecution if they register. Challenging SIM card registration laws is therefore important to preserving our civic spaces and defending democracy.
How widespread are mandatory SIM card registration laws?
SIM card registration laws are proliferating, but there is no uniform approach. By December 2018, approximately 150 governments required some form of proof of identity before a person could purchase a SIM card, but what form of ID and what other information may be required varies. In 2012, the European Commission requested that EU states provide evidence of actual or potential benefits from mandatory SIM card registration measures and, after examining the responses it received, concluded there was no benefit either to assisting criminal investigations or to the common market to having a single EU approach. SOURCE: GSMA (pg. 10).
As of February 2019, the following countries have mandatory SIM card registration laws: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, South Korea, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Suriname, Svalbard, Swaziland, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe. SOURCE: GSMA (pgs. 46-53).
As of February 2019, the following countries do not have mandatory SIM card registration laws: Andorra, Bahamas, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cabo Verde, Canada, Colombia, Comoros, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America. SOURCE: GSMA (pgs. 46-53).
Countries that do not appear on these two lists were either considering possible SIM card registration or it was not possible to determine the state of the law. For updates on any of the above countries, or countries that were not included, please email email@example.com.