This week, a proposed bill in Congress seeks to require all users provide ID and register prepaid “burner” phones at the time of purchase.
It is claimed that so-called burner phones are what has been keeping terror groups such as Islamic extremists several steps ahead of law enforcement, especially related to events such as the Paris attack. While it’s not clear whether the bill directly relates to such claims, it’s noteworthy that the US governments very clear aim is to put a stop to anonymity in relation to mobile devices.
Representative Jackie Speier, the congresswoman who proposed the bill, called the prepaid loophole an “egregious gap in our legal framework”, and one that allowed criminals and terrorists almost full autonomy and a means for private and anonymous communications.
Privacy and anonymity are of course desired in our everyday lives. But burner phones in this case represent a much wider battle that is trying to define where are personal freedoms end, to get the upper hand in fighting crime and terrorism.
For now, there’s no easy answer, but the debate is raging on and will continue into the foreseeable future.
For the moment, the bill does not appear to have gained much traction and is yet to be approved by the House Judiciary Committee, however it’s worth keeping an eye on the story as it unfolds, especially in the light of recent cases regarding the government’s unfettered access to our private and encrypted mobile communications.