The dynamism of cyberspace has prompted numerous changes in policies and legislation to address the new and emerging ambiguities in digital fabric which are exploited by the cyber criminals in the form of new cyber attacks. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in India has devised a new method to protect customers from fraud and other unlawful actions online, as well as to avoid fraudulent identities while buying a new SIM card or misrepresenting on OTT platforms.

Submitting fictitious documents to acquire a new SIM card or impersonating someone on apps such as WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, and others may result in a year in jail or a fine of up to Rs 50,000. To safeguard customers from illegal internet activity, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has included these measures in the most recent draft of the telecommunications bill.

There has been a lot of fraud and illicit activity by internet criminals in recent years, who usually gain SIM using bogus documents and mask their true identity. They also use forged identities to gain access to the OTT platform.

According to an official Bill explanatory, all telecom subscribers should know who is calling. This will aid in the prevention of cyber fraud involving telecom services.  As a result, provisions concerning identity have been added in the Bill at appropriate places,” according to the explanatory note. Sub-section 7 under section 4 of the draft Bill compels telecom customers to declare their identities. This means that all SIM card holders will undergo KYC, preventing SIM card fraud.

If a user misrepresents their identity, he or she may be sentenced to up to a year in prison, fined up to Rs 50,000, or have their communications services suspended, or a combination of these. This type of fraud has been designated as a cognizable offense, which means that a police officer can arrest without a warrant and initiate an investigation without the authorization of a court.

To address the matter further, the government has ordered that, going forward, even OTT services must undergo KYC before onboarding users.

The amendments due to be Made : Telecom Bill 2022

  • According to the draft of the Indian Telecommunication Bill 2022, the Center has also recommended bringing Meta-owned WhatsApp, Zoom, and Google Duo under the purview of telecom licensing.
  • The government has suggested, however, exempting from interception press messages intended for publication in India from journalists affiliated to the Central or state governments.
  • According to the proposal, “an organization shall get a license for the provision of Telecommunication Services and Telecommunication Networks.”
  • Another noteworthy provision in the draft law, which was issued late Wednesday, is the proposal to waive telecom and internet service provider costs and penalties.
  • The exemption for press communications, however, will not be granted in the event of a public emergency or in the interest of public safety, India’s sovereignty, integrity, or security, friendly relations with other governments, public order, or to avoid incitement to an offense, according to the draft.
  • It also suggests that payments be refunded if an internet or telecommunications service provider wants to surrender the license. According to the draft law, the Center may “waive any price, including entrance fees, licensing fees, registration fees, or any other fees or charges, interest, extra charges, or penalty” for any license holder or registered organization under the telecom regulations.
  • The draft law has been made available for public feedback. The deadline for comments on the proposed law is October 20.

Author: Mr. Shrey Madaan, Research Associate, CyberPeace Foundation

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