U.S. Bill May Force Pre-Paid Cell Phone Buyers To Give Personal Info

Did you know that you can purchase a cell phone in the United States without actually handing over any personal information at all? It's true. For years, consumers have been able to purchase pre-paid cell phones from stores such as Wal-Mart, and since they can be purchased with cash, there's little to no trace left behind. For many, they don't actually stop to think about this, but for drug lords and other criminals who wish to maintain a low cover while communicating on the go, having a pre-paid cell phone is the ultimate luxury.

In Australia, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Thailand, users who purchase pre-paid mobiles must register so that the nation will know who is behind the call should something go awry. Some may view this as an invasion of privacy, but for those who purchase post-paid phones, they all have to cough up their personal information anyway. This is basically aligning the information requirements for post- and pre-paid consumers. Now, the U.S. is considering similar action, as pre-paid mobiles in the hands on criminals is usually a dead-end for investigators.

According to a new report, the proposed legislation would "require buyers of pre-paid cell phones to show identification when they purchase them and mandate that telephone companies keep the information on file as they do with subscription cell phones." Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer stated the following: "This proposal is overdue because 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."

We largely agree. If this were a serious invasion of privacy, that's one thing; but given that post-paid mobile users already have to give up their personal information, there's no reason to prevent pre-paid users from doing the same. As they say, if you have nothing to hide, you should have nothing to worry about. There's no time table for when the bill may become law, but it's good to see progress being made. It's long overdue, in our estimation.