A proposal is being brought before the House that would require anyone who purchasers a prepaid cellphone show identification to make the purchase. It seems that in countries such as Australia, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Norway, Switzerland, Thailand and South Africa registration is already required in the hope of stopping terrorism. You may be wondering why this has now come to the attention of our elected officials?
Here is the answer:
Faisal Shahzad, the 30-year-old suspect in the Times Square plot, allegedly used a prepaid cellphone to arrange the purchase of a Nissan Pathfinder that he attempted to turn into a car bomb, the senators noted. He also used the phone to make a series of calls to Pakistan before the bomb attempt. Federal authorities caught a break when a number listed in the phone’s call log matched one provided to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials months earlier, when Shahzad reentered the United States from Pakistan.
“But for that stroke of luck, authorities might never have been able to match the phone number” provided by the Pathfinder’s seller, the lawmakers said in a news release.
But the privacy folk present this scenario and concerns:
Civil liberties advocates have concerns about the proposal, saying there must be a role for anonymous communications in a free society. “They remain important for whistleblowers, battered spouses, reporters’ sources,” said James X. Dempsey, policy director for the Center for Democracy and Technology. And yet, he said, the space for such anonymous or pseudonymous communications has been narrowed. Pay phones, for example, have largely disappeared.
Privacy advocates worry that prepaid cellphone registration might be a step toward something even more worrisome in their view: identity registration to access the Internet. “I think everybody would admit in a free society there is a need for some ability to communicate without creating a full digital paper trail,” Dempsey said. “We’re just saying this proposal has to be considered in a broader context.”
The unfortunate thing is that I seriously doubt that this will stop the use of prepaid cell phones being purchased anonymously. We struggle in this country trying to control the sale of guns. I fear the same will happen with the sale of prepaid cell phones. There will be a new market cropping up for black market cell phones if and when the law passes.
What do you think?
Comments as always are welcome.