A new bill was proposed today that would require people to prove their identity when buying pre-paid phones. What's more, the cellular service provider would then be required to keep that information on file in case law enforcement needs to tap into it.
"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," said Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.
Schumer cited the current case of the New York Times Square bomb plot. The alleged bomber, Faisal Shahzad, used a pre-paid phone rather than a post-paid phone. Post-paid phones are what many Americans use. They require a credit check with the wireless service provider, proof of identity, and typically come with a two-year contract. Those accounts are maintained by the cellular providers, who can easily identify subscribers for law enforcement. The same isn't true of the cash-and-carry pre-paid market.
"While most Americans use pre-paid mobile devices lawfully, the anonymous nature of these devices gives too much cover to individuals looking to use them for deviant, dangerous means," said Republican Senator John Cornyn.
The bill is still just a bill. It has to pass a number of hurdles with congress before becoming law. Several countries, including Australia, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Thailand, already require pre-paid users to register their IDs.