A bipartisan bill announced this week in the Senate would require prepaid cell phone buyers to provide ID before a purchase.
The purpose of the bill is to prevent prepaid cell phones and calling cards from being used by criminals, including terrorists, for anonymous and untraceable communications.
Currently law enforcement agencies have no way of tracking who is using prepaid cell phones and calling plans -- or for what purposes. The phones and cards are sold anonymously, without the need to show identification. They can even be dispensed from kiosks or vending machines.
“Without a known cell phone number to tie a crook to, getting a wiretap becomes almost impossible, and such villains can generally operate with complete impunity, gabbing away in plain sight with no one able to listen in,” an article on Yahoo! News states.
According to the report the convenience and anonymity of prepaid plans has made them “popular with Wall Street types engaging in insider trading activity. Naturally, terrorism is a major concern, too. The FBI says it found that the recent Times Square bomb scare was arranged through the use of a prepaid cell phone, as well.”
As the report points out, there are legitimate reasons for having prepaid cell phones and plans as well – and the recently introduced bill “is unlikely to sit well with many legitimate users.” As it points out, there are ways these prepaid plans help protect people as well: For exmaple, domestic abuse victims sometimes find these plans helpful when trying to evade an abusive partner.
But the criminal risks of anonymous phone usage will likely outweigh the positives. As the article points out, nine out of the 24 countries that belong to the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development have already adopted laws requiring identification for prepaid plans.
Already several states have laws requiring papers when you buy a cell phone of any kind.
Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard