The Department of Telecom is making additions to the Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR), a centralised database of the IMEI numbers of all mobile devices in the country, which was launched earlier this year.
The ministry has asked handset manufacturers to submit the database of the 15 digits long unique identification code termed as International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) within the next two months.
DoT has been in talks with Indian and international mobile handset manufacturers to compile the IMEI codes for all the mobile phones sold in the country for security purposes. IMEI code is used by the authorities to track mobile phones across the various network providers and to block it if needed.
The unique number attached to every mobile device is given by global industry body GSMA, and all telecom operators have their respective database of IMEI numbers of the handsets on their networks. Under the current system, if a mobile phone is reported stolen, it can only be blocked by their previous network provider who had the IMEI details of the stolen handset.
Recently, the government has launched a central tracking portal Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR), which is undergoing a pilot test in Mumbai, helping users to detect their lost or stolen mobile phones by tracking IMEI number across networks.
Talking to ET, a senior official informed that the government currently has the data of all the phone imported in India as it is part of the customs process. Since a large number of phones are being manufactured in India, the department has asked all Indian manufacturers to share the data of IMEI numbers embedded in the hardware of the handsets at the time of manufacturing.
There have been reports of hackers reprogramming the IMEI numbers in the stolen handsets to prevent tracking by the authorities, and the department is looking to curb that with the centralised list.
Although it is still unknown how this move would hamper the privacy of citizen as the move can allow the government to track all the citizens carrying a mobile phone. Further, there are possibilities of a data breach and the related privacy concerns as well.