UK’s Mobile Phone register will require passport to buy PAYG handset

You can’t be too careful.

And, er, since it’s electronic, it’s trackable. So let’s track it!

So goes the thinking behind the latest plans here in the UK to protect the nation.

If you buy a mobile phone on contract, your identity is already confirmed.

If you buy a mobile phone on PAYG — Pay As You Go — you don’t need to prove your identity.

Ergo huge, huge breeding ground for terrorists. Apparently.

With 72% of Vodafone’s almost 19 million UK customers earmarked as potential terrorists , it’s essential that they’re all passported the next time they buy a handset, right?

It’s time for rolling of eyes and acceptance with a wry smile.

The Times of London has the details.

Everyone who buys a mobile telephone will be forced to register their identity on a national database under government plans to extend massively the powers of state surveillance.

Phone buyers would have to present a passport or other official form of identification at the point of purchase. Privacy campaigners fear it marks the latest government move to create a surveillance society.

A compulsory national register for the owners of all 72m mobile phones in Britain would be part of a much bigger database to combat terrorism and crime. Whitehall officials have raised the idea of a register containing the names and addresses of everyone who buys a phone in recent talks with Vodafone and other telephone companies, insiders say.

The move is targeted at monitoring the owners of Britain’s estimated 40m prepaid mobile phones. They can be purchased with cash by customers who do not wish to give their names, addresses or credit card details.

I hardly think this is going to be very useful for the tracking of would-be terrorists. Tracking guns, drugs and hand grenades might be a little bit more effective.

Still.

Everyone needs a mobile phone, right? Even would-be-terrorists. Who will need to show their fake ID to buy a handset.

Or who will simply steal registered PAYG handsets to make their calls. Like stealing cars.

Or who will buy unlocked handsets from abroad.

Or who will simply use the millions of unregistered PAYG handsets already in the country. There’s plenty of them.

I suppose this could potentially be useful. If you think someone’s going to attack, say, the Houses of Parliament (goodness knows what the folk at GCHQ are thinking of all the keywords in this post already… WARNING WARNING!), and you think the baddie is in the vicinity… simply fire up your black boxes and list every handset operational within 5 miles of the location.

THEN filter out all the ones that are registered to (apparently) real people. With apparent real IDs.

Then you’ll — theoretically — be left with a list of unregistered baddies. Some of which will be 62 year old Mavis, the cleaner, who hasn’t changed her handset for 14 years… and ideally — at least from the point of the anti-terrorist chaps — you should also see some suspicious looking possible-nasty folk that want locking up for 42 days.

This kind of privacy-creep is inevitable.

And I suppose, from a commerce viewpoint, if you have to introduce it into the industry, now’s the time to do it — when the industry is mature.

Think through the ramifications. Every MVNO is going to have a total arse. You’ll no longer be able to walk into huge retailer, Argos, and buy a phone. They simply don’t have the infrastructure to check IDs.

Neither does the likes of Tesco or your average petrol (“Gas”) station where these things are being flogged as impulse purchases. None of these retailers are going to want to faff about with ID recording.

I suppose retailers could insist you purchase with a Switch/Maestro (“Bank Card”) or Credit Card — that way all purchases are theoretically trackable.

But I reckon what the intelligence agencies really want is to be able to type in a mobile phone number and… woosh… within 2 seconds, have the owner’s identity up on screen together with cross-referenced frequently called numbers (and their IDs) and so on.

I’d just like to specify that I work in the mobile industry, right? So when you’re pulling up 07769 658 104, finding the ID Ewan MacLeod and finding that I have an account on *every* network and oodles of handsets, I’d like that displayed. Better still, could you cross reference that with a series of posts from Mobile Industry Review, proving it?

And that record for the Motorola RAZR back a few years ago? Don’t judge me. It was just a phase I was going through…

(Well spotted Denny)

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  • http://www.kcjhdesign.co.uk Kip Hakes

    Interesting, but I just can't see it working…

  • http://invalid.name DanLane

    I wonder if Ben had to show his passport to buy a local SIM when we went to China. I'll bet he didn't!

  • http://www.smstextnews.com/author/Ben.Smith Ben Smith

    No I didn't.

    As Ewan points out above – pointless…. Want to make terrorist phone calls now? Just bring in a roaming overseas SIM or steal one or fake your identity. The cynic in me says these ideas are made public just to soften us up for the less crazy-sounding, but equally intrusive measures.

    The security services can already see where a handset is, hear what is said and check the registration info (for those that require it before use) with relevant warrants. This adds little value for them.

    In fact, it feels more like an artificial case to support the adoption of ID cards… “it would be quicker to buy a mobile if you just had to swipe your ID card in the till”

  • http://thesamantha.co.nr Samantha

    George Orwell comes to mind!

    When will this country begin to realise that these so called “threats” are only as bad as we keep making them out to be.

    This will not achieve anything, and if it does, it'll be me getting angry, and I'm sure many others too.

    Samantha.

  • mattinx

    Usually, I find myself reading MIR and thinking “if I were back in the UK…”, for here in Canada, the mobile industry's main purpose appears to be to extract as much money from the users as possible, whilst providing a minimal number of features. However reading an article like this really just gives the impression that the country is going down the tubes and I left at about the right time.

    I'm really not sure what they think they'll accomplish with such big brotherish schemes – there are always ways for the bad guys to sneak through and all it serves to do is encroach on the rights of the law abiding individual and generally make life difficult. *sighs*

    Oh, and for the record, no, I didn't vote for the current government :&)

  • mattinx

    Usually, I find myself reading MIR and thinking “if I were back in the UK…”, for here in Canada, the mobile industry's main purpose appears to be to extract as much money from the users as possible, whilst providing a minimal number of features. However reading an article like this really just gives the impression that the country is going down the tubes and I left at about the right time.

    I'm really not sure what they think they'll accomplish with such big brotherish schemes – there are always ways for the bad guys to sneak through and all it serves to do is encroach on the rights of the law abiding individual and generally make life difficult. *sighs*

    Oh, and for the record, no, I didn't vote for the current government :&)

  • mattinx

    Usually, I find myself reading MIR and thinking “if I were back in the UK…”, for here in Canada, the mobile industry's main purpose appears to be to extract as much money from the users as possible, whilst providing a minimal number of features. However reading an article like this really just gives the impression that the country is going down the tubes and I left at about the right time.

    I'm really not sure what they think they'll accomplish with such big brotherish schemes – there are always ways for the bad guys to sneak through and all it serves to do is encroach on the rights of the law abiding individual and generally make life difficult. *sighs*

    Oh, and for the record, no, I didn't vote for the current government :&)

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