US lawmakers target pre-paid cellphone anonymity

May 26, 2010
A man uses a cell phone in New York. US lawmakers unveiled a bill Wednesday to enable law enforcement to identify users of pre-paid cell phones, charging that anonymity makes the devices attractive to terrorists, drug kingpins and gangs.

US lawmakers unveiled a bill Wednesday to enable law enforcement to identify users of pre-paid cell phones, charging that anonymity makes the devices attractive to terrorists, drug kingpins and gangs.

The legislation would require buyers of pre-paid cell phones to show identification when they purchase them and mandate that telephone companies keep the information on file as they do with subscription cell phones.

"This proposal is overdue because for years terrorists, drug kingpins and gang members have stayed one step ahead of the law by using prepaid phones that are hard to trace," said Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.

Schumer noted that the alleged Times Square bomb plotter, Faisal Shahzad, had used a pre-paid cell phone that can often be "a dead end for law enforcement."

"While most Americans use pre-paid mobile devices lawfully, the anonymous nature of these devices gives too much cover to individuals looking to use them for deviant, dangerous means," said Republican Senator John Cornyn.

Pre-paid cell phones can typically be bought with cash and activated without signing a contract or facing a credit check.

The senators said Shahzad used a pre-paid cell phone to arrange the purchase of the vehicle he allegedly hoped to use as a car bomb, and that US authorities tracked him down only because a number listed in the phone's call log matched one Shahzad provided to authorities upon entering the United States months earlier.

"But for that stroke of luck, authorities might never have been able to match the phone number provided by the seller of the Pathfinder to Shahzad," they said in a joint statement.

Countries including Australia, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Thailand already require registration of pre-paid , the senators said.

And at least six US states have been mulling similar rules, they said.

Explore further: Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

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User comments : 9

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Arkaleus
not rated yet May 26, 2010
So the legal theory behind this is that all of our conversations and transactions are required by law to be visible to whatever "authority" wants to see it?

Sounds like a load of nu-speak delirium coming from people who can't read the 4th amendment. What's next, banning encryption because it can't be spied on?
pauljpease
not rated yet May 26, 2010
So the legal theory behind this is that all of our conversations and transactions are required by law to be visible to whatever "authority" wants to see it?

Sounds like a load of nu-speak delirium coming from people who can't read the 4th amendment. What's next, banning encryption because it can't be spied on?


Really? The article doesn't say that they want the ability to spy on all phone calls. (The PATRIOT Act does that already). Just that they want to be able to find the owner of a phone. Is that really so bad? How many things do you own already have to be registered with the government? I wonder how the constitution would have been worded if they had the technology that exists today?
Arkaleus
not rated yet May 26, 2010
I don't think I need to help the government investigate me, you, or anyone else. That's the protection the 5th amendment provides.

I certainly don't need to expose my private transactions to anyone, especially the federal government. The constitution already covers this issue - It's called the 4th amendment.

When government wants something, there is a process to follow. That's the concept that's been totally lost by almost everyone. It's called DUE PROCESS. Government has no rights, therefore it must follow a process to get things its wants. When it wants my private transactions and conversations, it needs to show cause for a warrant, and a judge needs to sign it.

That's the law. Did you want to change the law? There's a process for that too, it's called a constitutional amendment. Good luck with that, though.
drel
not rated yet May 26, 2010
Look at me I'm great! I'm fixing the problem and saving the world!!!

What a crock! All it will do is create a black market for "clean" phones and a mess of bureaucracy and paperwork for the law abiding masses. The professional criminals will still have access to phones that they can use without fear of being traced. The NYPD will trace a phone and it will lead them to a 8 year old in Albany or a corpse that has been dead for over 5 years in Miami! Just one more law for the unlawful to break.
Arkaleus
not rated yet May 26, 2010
I don't need to be a criminal to want privacy. Nor does my want of privacy make me a criminal. It's time to shove back the "1984" fantasy these morons are trying to sell.

Chuck Schumer is behind this, and I'm not surprised. His record makes it clear that he expects the rest of the States to live under the same conditions as New York. Well Mr Schumer, this isn't New York.

What a poor representative of American Liberty and the rights of her citizens.
Roj
5 / 5 (1) May 26, 2010
Criminals have always had strong anonymity from pay phones, OPP (Other People's Phones), and encrypted VOIP, among others.

Historical correlations between crime and law point to lawmakers licking the boots of corporate firms that would benefit from newly mandated revenue streams.

Less likely would be a correlation between registering prepaid phones, and making anonymous crime go away, or increasing the rate of convictions.

A more productive law would be criminal prosecution against lawmakers pandering to lobbyists, followed by reality TV shows of these village idiots serving their sentence among the general prison population.
CarolinaScotsman
1 / 5 (1) May 27, 2010
I don't understand all the fuss. Gun registration has totally eliminated the ability of criminals to obtain firearms. Now phone registration will do the same for phones. If criminals can't shoot or call someone, then how will they be able to commit a crime?
danman5000
not rated yet May 27, 2010
I don't understand all the fuss. Gun registration has totally eliminated the ability of criminals to obtain firearms. Now phone registration will do the same for phones. If criminals can't shoot or call someone, then how will they be able to commit a crime?

Right, because there have been exactly zero murders by gun since registrations started. I hope you were joking. Following your logic, next we should enact knife, blunt object, and pointy stick registrations.
Eric_B
not rated yet May 31, 2010
"I don't understand all the fuss. Gun registration has totally eliminated the ability of criminals to obtain firearms. Now phone registration will do the same for phones. If criminals can't shoot or call someone, then how will they be able to commit a crime?

Right, because there have been exactly zero murders by gun since registrations started. I hope you were joking. Following your logic, next we should enact knife, blunt object, and pointy stick registrations."

What kind of registration can we mandate to trace prostitution?

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