US lawmakers have introduced a new bill that will give police the ability to better track and identify pre-paid cell phone users — claiming the devices are an easy means of communication for criminals.
If the legislation is passed, customers seeking to purchase a pre-paid phone will have to provide a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license. The phone company will then keep the information on file just like a standard phone contract.
The proposal was created by Republican John Cornyn and Democrat Charles Schumer, after several high-profile cases in which pre-paid phones were used to commit crimes. Most recently, it was learned the Pakistani-American who attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square used a pre-paid phone to make calls overseas.
“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,” Schumer said in a statement. “There’s no reason why it should still be this easy for terror plotters to cover their tracks.”
It’s possible to purchase pre-paid phones with cash from a local corner store or retailer without the need for a credit check or contract.
Several U.S. states are considering statewide legislation to require photo identification if the federal government doesn’t create a new law. Australia, Germany, Japan, Norway, Switzerland, South Africa and a few other countries have legislation in place to safeguard the use of pre-paid phones.
Government agencies and some police departments have said before that prepaid phones are a burden for investigations — especially since it’s so easy to purchase, use, and then dispose of the device. However, I’m still nervous any time the government says they want to clamp down on the use of a technology for national security — especially since it’s possible that this power could be abused.