Your mobile phone’s IMEI number could soon prove to be very useful if your smartphone gets stolen or lost. As the Indian Express has reported, the Telecom Ministry will soon roll out a database of IMEIs or the International Mobile Equipment Identity number to help keep track of stolen mobiles.
IMEI is a 15-digit number that can uniquely identify the mobile phone’s model, date of purchase, etc. The Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) will help those whose mobiles are lost or stolen, as they will be able to inform the Department of Telecom (DoT) via a helpline number after filing a report with the police. Let’s take a look at what the IMEI number is and how it works.
What is an IMEI number? How to find it on your mobile phone?
IMEI number is a 15-digit unique number of every mobile phone, and it is also mentioned on the retail box, when you buy a device. When you buy a smartphone with a dual-SIM, which is common in India, the device usually has two IMEI numbers, and both are printed on the box.
The IMEI number can also be found in settings of the device on iOS and Android devices, as well in the About the Phone section. On iOS, go to Settings>General>About and scroll down to the IMEI number. On Android, this is found in About the phone segment in the Settings app.
Or you can just dial *#06# from your smartphone and the IMEI number will be reflected on your device. The IMEI number matters as it can give information about the kind of device (Android or iOS), the model number, the network, country from where it came, warranty information, date of purchase and other details about the phone.
So why is IMEI number important?
As pointed out the IMEI number helps to keep track of a lot of crucial information and is unique to the device. A crucial piece of information that can be gauged is the date of purchase. You might have noticed that when you purchase a new mobile phone, the seller will also note down the IMEI number on the bill. Or when you hand over the device for repair, the IMEI and Serial number are needed. It is recommended that you keep this IMEI information safe for future use.
When you plan to resell the smartphone on an e-commerce portal, like say Flipkart, they will ask for IMEI number in order to get details on the device, including when it was purchased. Having the IMEI number can help retailers locate where the device was sold, when and also track down a phone that has been reported as stolen.
For example: if you try and resell a smartphone in India, but the IMEI is for a device in UK, and you can’t produce a valid bill for the same, the website might not agree to buy it. It also recommended that one must use an IMEI checker before buying a used device, to verify whether it is original and valid. There are devices with fake IMEI numbers as well and you should avoid those.
So what will this IMEI database do in India?
Once an IMEI number is reported as stolen with a police complaint being filed, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will then be able to blacklist the IMEI effectively blocking the mobile device from accessing any cellular network. This will ensure that whoever has stolen your mobile is unable to use it for even the most basic purposes, such as making calls or accessing data.
However, the CEIR will also facilitate “IMEI-based lawful interception” and this raises privacy concerns. The government will have to ensure that the data is not misused. The database will have three lists – white, grey and black.
Mobile phones with IMEI numbers in the white list will be permitted for use, those in the blacklist will be the ones reported stolen or lost and not allowed to access the network. Those on the greylist will be phones that do not conform to standards, but are permitted to connect to networks under supervision.
Other countries which have a similar register are Australia, the UK, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Turkey. The CEIR will also have access to GSMA’s global IMEI database, allowing a comparison of IMEI numbers to identify counterfeit or fake devices.