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Passports Required To Buy PAYG Mobile Phones

Gordon Kelly


Passports Required To Buy PAYG Mobile Phones

Another typical Big Brother move or a necessary evil?

According to widespread paper talk today the government is planning to introduce a new law requiring all PAYG customers to present an official form of ID, such as a passport or photo driving licence along with a valid home address before their sims will be handed over. The move is believed to be an attempt to combat terrorism with the currently anonymous pre-paid market highly popular with nefarious types.

Any such move would create a super sized database where users can be tracked and pinpointed by their mobile phone signal should suspicion about their circumstances arise. As for the size of the task itself, of the 72m mobile phones in Britain more than half (an estimated 40m) are said to be on prepay with network Vodafone admitting 72 per cent of its 18.5m UK customers use PAYG.

The move while - potentially - venerable in theory also throws up a number of issues:

  • Everyone will need a passport

  • A black market in pre-registered sim cards will emerge with even higher phone crime a net result - particularly in poorer areas

  • It does nothing to stop criminals from using foreign sims and roaming - other than hit them in the pocket (not much of a concern to your average suicide bomber)
Ultimately however British society once again finds itself in a familiar situation: fiercely fighting to defend its privacy rights while simultaneously throwing out every detail of its personal information on booming social networking sites. We want anonymity, yet we're addicted to twitter... go figure.

That said, with the action now sealed into a draft Communications Data Bill (which quietly closed for public consultation back on 6 August) we may no longer have a say in the matter. And that, if nothing else, is perhaps the most worrying aspect of all...


via The Times

Communications Data Bill

Martin Daler

October 20, 2008, 2:39 pm

can they trace this comment...?


October 20, 2008, 2:53 pm

@Martin - I'm sure our site developer Rich can ;)


October 20, 2008, 3:14 pm

Lol...Looks like ebay will be busy with phone sales, as will the unlocking companies! The value of second hand phones will increase, does the government really think people will not find ways around this. They are not interested in stopping terrorism it is just to bring them in-line with how it is in most other E.U countries.


October 20, 2008, 3:35 pm

@Dylantherabbit - fair points. I suspect terrorists and high level criminals will easily get around it and given they are supposedly the target of this action (at the expense of 99.9% of the population) it seems rather daft. Unless of course there is another 'secret' agenda entirely...


October 20, 2008, 4:26 pm

Wonder how long it will be before we're all chipped and tracked in the name of 'terrorism' or 'for the children'. The 'terrorists' have won. The freedoms and liberties they have been trying to destroy have been removed by our own government.

The Mighty Ben

October 20, 2008, 4:30 pm

So if there's a terrorist who has a mobile number that's similar to mine, and an operator gets one digit wrong, what's to stop a team of armed undercover officers tracking me down and shooting me half a dozen times in the head before I even have a chance to say 'what the deuce?'. This makes me feel less safe than before. If you were guarenteed a trial before execution in this country, I don't think I'd mind so much. @Gordon: Maybe the hidden agenda is to discourage people from using their mobile phones in the first plce and running up huge bills. I'm sure that's partly to blame for the state of the economy!


October 20, 2008, 4:53 pm

If this happens, how will online shops such as play or amazon be able to process photo id online then?

Or are they simply going to stop selling PAYG phones...methinks no!


October 20, 2008, 5:35 pm

I traded my right to privacy when I signed up to an 18 month contract so can't really complain. PAYG customer wanting to stay anonymous would need to top-up in cash only (probably while wearing a full face mask), keep the phone switched off, never stay in the same location for more than 20 minutes and use a voice changer whenever they made calls. Privacy, encryption and security are worth very little, the only thing we have is trust...but how much trust?

Hans Gruber

October 20, 2008, 6:18 pm

Serious criminals will just register using an alias. Passports and driving licenses are relatively easy to procure. However, mobile phone records still provide the police with a great deal of circumstantial (you were there) type evidence when prosecuting. Of course, it helps them if you've kept the same SIM and PAYG subscriber modules are easy to ditch. Funny how the felonious forget this and get caught out.

Martin Leventon

October 20, 2008, 6:44 pm

@basicasic That isn't far off but by the way of ID cards instead. AT the end of the article it mentions twitter, this is consented invasion of privacy of sorts unlike the move to require passports for PAYG phones which is forced apon us. This along with the wanted change in laws for VOIP providers is starting to lead the government down a slippery slope.

Fred Bargate

October 20, 2008, 8:25 pm

I can not see a problem, I have been carrying a an ID card for more than 30 years and have had to provide it to purchase a PAYG phone in the last few years. I also show my ID to use any of my bank cards.

I don't have a problem with carrying or showing ID, it may not be fullproof but it's a start, and before anyone thinks dfferent I am a UK citizen.


October 20, 2008, 9:24 pm

Consistent with so many measures over the years, the attitude is 'we can't allow ten million of you to do some things, or leave them unregulated, because one among you may abuse the privelidge we allow'.

I can remember the prevention of CB Radio (FM) by the Home Office on the grounds that it might be used for criminal activity.

But the problem is that whoever you vote for, goverment gets in.


October 20, 2008, 11:57 pm

I think they should ask for passports in the food shops - you can circumvent the mobile phone shops but you GOTTA eat sometime :D:D:D:D


October 21, 2008, 1:31 am

In countries like India this was launched nearly 4 or 5 years ago but the bombs go like fire crackers every month in atleast one major city that too triggered most of the times by mobiles. Sad but these things do not stop terrrorism. They will speed up police investigation in a reactive mode.

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