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New Bill Seeks Registration When Purchasing Prepaid Phones

March 25, 2016 - Written By John Anon

Recently, it would seem as though the news has been littered with reports on the U.S. legal system and smartphones. Of course, most of this has revolved around the encryption battle and especially since the Apple incident where the company was asked by the FBI to gain access to a specific iPhone. A request for help that Apple refused to comply with. Since then, the debate surrounding encryption has intensified in the media, in the courts and with smartphone consumers.

However, it is not the extent to all the smartphone issues that Governments worldwide are looking at. Another aspect revolves around the use of prepaid mobiles. One of the big benefits of prepaid mobiles is that they are generally affordable enough to buy outright and do not require a contract or likewise to purchase. A combination which essentially means they are considered to be an off-the-shelf purchase. However, from a legal standpoint, the issue with this is that anyone at anytime can buy a prepaid smartphone. A purchase system that means they are not particularly tracked and law enforcement agencies are not able to know who has which phone at any given time.

As an extension of this point, a number of these prepaid options are quite often portrayed as the device of choice for criminals, terrorists and the likes. In an attempt to combat this particular aspect of prepaid usage, a new bill has been put forward this week, which if passed would require all prepaid phone purchases to be registered at the point of sale. The bill which is entitled “Closing the Pre-Paid Mobile Device Security Gap Act of 2016” has been put forward by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) and according to the details, identification would be needed when purchasing a prepaid smartphone and the retailer will be required to record any and all buyers. In short, the bill looks to introduce the same level of buyer information that is required for contract phones, information which can be called upon by law enforcement agencies as and when needed. At the moment, the bill has not progressed beyond the initial introduction stage and it is currently unknown how likely it is to be approved by the House Judiciary Committee. Not to mention, this is not the first time a bill like this has been proposed in the past. However, it does seem to be further evidence that the privacy/mobile debate is moving quickly beyond that of encryption.