With Encryption Battle on Hold, Burner Phones Now Targeted

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With Encryption Battle on Hold, Burner Phones Now Targeted

Burner Phone

Although the FBI has apparently paused its battle with Apple over encryption, there's now another branch of the technological world under fire: burner phones. A new house bill, introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), would essentially kill the anonymous prepaid phone industry.

The bill calls for retailers of prepaid phones to collect personal information on all buyers, including name, birth date and home address. The retailers would also be told to verify the info with a driver's license number, social security number or other suitable form of ID.

Why are burner phones being targeted?

Explains Rep. Speier: "This bill would close one of the most significant gaps in our ability to track and prevent acts of terror, drug trafficking, and modern-day slavery. The 'burner phone' loophole is an egregious gap in our legal framework that allows actors like the 9/11 hijackers and the Times Square bomber to evade law enforcement while they plot to take innocent lives. The Paris attackers also used 'burner phones.'"

This isn't the first time this year that the cell phone industry has been in jeopardy of being turned upside down. Back in January, lawmakers in both New York and California pushed for encyption-enabled smartphones to be banned.

Image: ProhibitOnions

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Hang on, why aren't identity checks required under U.S law? This kind of thing just seems like common sense to me. It's been a requirement here in Australia since the beginning, for this very reason.

Because this kind of over-controlling nonsense has totally helped stop terrorism on a regular basis already. Good heavens, how dumb does the government think American citizens are? Because at this point they're probably right! We're just giving our freedom away for nothing in return.

008Zulu:
Hang on, why aren't identity checks required under U.S law? This kind of thing just seems like common sense to me. It's been a requirement here in Australia since the beginning, for this very reason.

I thought that was for the SIM cards rather than the handsets. Then again I have bought precisely one handset outright and that was close to seven years ago, I may simply not recall.

Hold the phone, so to speak!

...did that man just mention slavery? Like...actual slavery or indentured servitude in sweatshops?

008Zulu:
Hang on, why aren't identity checks required under U.S law? This kind of thing just seems like common sense to me. It's been a requirement here in Australia since the beginning, for this very reason.

thats where my head went as well. we need them here and its not an issue

008Zulu:
Hang on, why aren't identity checks required under U.S law? This kind of thing just seems like common sense to me. It's been a requirement here in Australia since the beginning, for this very reason.

Unless the information is placed onto a unified database then you might as well be selling beer to the customer instead. Even then you can just buy the bloody phones on ebay without the security check.

FalloutJack:
Hold the phone, so to speak!

...did that man just mention slavery? Like...actual slavery or indentured servitude in sweatshops?

I assumed he was referring to sex trafficking

I find this hilarious.

In my country I could walk down the street, buy an unregistered sim, then drive to the mall, buy an Iphone that is probably stolen, put the sim card in, then have a brand new (so to speak) phone.

Never quite understood how cellphones work in the States.

Gordon_4:
I thought that was for the SIM cards rather than the handsets.

The phone is kinda useless without a SIM card.

mad825:
a unified database

Here in Australia, you are required to show either a valid drivers license (or state issued i.d), or your passport. Both of those are unified databases.

008Zulu:

Gordon_4:
I thought that was for the SIM cards rather than the handsets.

The phone is kinda useless without a SIM card.

That depends on the phone, a smartphone can still be connected to wireless networks and use messaging apps and skype-like programs to communicate. Though I agree burner style phones are not much good without the SIM; that's why I assumed that the ID check was rather for the SIM card - as that's what authorises your connection to the mobile network, data network and passage of the phone number.

I have a very strong feeling that this was a major part of the plan all along. Go after what you can't get, then go after what you want to make it seem like a reasinable alternative.

LJ Ellis:
Jackie Speier (D-CA)

I lack any kind of surprise.

FalloutJack:
Hold the phone, so to speak!

...did that man just mention slavery? Like...actual slavery or indentured servitude in sweatshops?

Yup. The former being the intended idea.

EdwardOrchard:

FalloutJack:
Hold the phone, so to speak!

...did that man just mention slavery? Like...actual slavery or indentured servitude in sweatshops?

I assumed he was referring to sex trafficking

No, not just sex trafficking. It's a lot easier to get away with forcing people to work on farms or in factories because it doesn't require members of the public to see the slaves. Coupled with the fact that only a minority of people have bodies worth selling, slavery on farms or factories is more common.

To government wants to make it more difficult for people to communicate anonymously, not surprising. I hope this fails because while such things might be used by criminals, they are also extremely convenient, and I'm a big protector of what little anonymity people can still get.

FalloutJack:
Hold the phone, so to speak!

...did that man just mention slavery? Like...actual slavery or indentured servitude in sweatshops?

Human trafficking is profitable business and it isn't unusual for people who pay to get smuggled into first world nations or answer ads for jobs abroad to end up as slaves. Sex trafficking and slavery is by far the most commonly discussed, but forcing people to work in dangerous or hard jobs to "pay off their debt" is not uncommon. Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery (Kara, 2009) relays examples of poor young men from Transnistria who are forced to work on fishing boats in the Balkans and who are routinely killed at the seasons end.

Slavery exists in the modern world and is just another branch of international organized crime.

008Zulu:
Hang on, why aren't identity checks required under U.S law? This kind of thing just seems like common sense-

Ah, see, that's your problem.

You are assuming that Common Sense is even a thing is Us Government.
Hell, Ted Cruz spent like 15 straight hours rambling and reading his kids bedtime stories in the middle of a session of the Senate and that's BEFORE we get to the more recent stuff with Trump...

Bullshit, Snowden said that the NSA keeps a close eye on phones that are turned on and off frequently and marks them on their surveillance systems. Burners are still not the issue.

The problem is that the surveillance systems in place target everyone for no reason and have shown no real proof of actually being useful for how large they are in actually preventing attacks. What they do is monitor innocent citizens and store that data for god-knows-what purposes.

Places like The Intercept (mind the bias) have already reported that former FBI staff have expressed an interest in collecting Big Data alongside metadata, which again proves either an incredible amount of incomptenece or a worrying potential for totalitarianism.

008Zulu:
Hang on, why aren't identity checks required under U.S law? This kind of thing just seems like common sense to me. It's been a requirement here in Australia since the beginning, for this very reason.

It's simply a matter of common sense actually. With prepaid phones there is no risk of a person using a fake name and then not paying his bills so the phone services don't have anything to lose by selling people phones without doing identity checks. However when they start requiring identity checks they limit their customers to those who have legal identification. I did not have legal identification until I was almost 16, but I bought my first phone at 13. These days kids buy phones more commonly and they rarely have legal identification. It's also convenient to do away with security checks if you really depend on your phone and and it gets stolen and you need a new one right away. Rather than wait for new ID (in case you lost that) and a new SIM card you can get a burner right away and reduce damages. Here we need to register with our social security, but that's only about a decade old. Before that came in place the phone book started getting names like Donald Duck and Cock Cockson from people who used false names.

mad825:
Even then you can just buy the bloody phones on ebay without the security check.

Yes, but as others have said, it's the SIM card that is crucial. My current SIM card has traveled through 3 different phones as of now. I wouldn't need ID to buy either of those phones, but my ID is tied to my SIM card. If this comes in place eBay will have to start cracking down on those selling SIM cards too.

This is stupid. Spying on citizens won't stop terrorism, US Government. Besides, if you are so worried about terrorists and burner phones, they're just going to come up with a way of working around whatever surveillance you set up.

I keep hearing about all this whole government surveillance program stuff, and all I can think is, "9/11 may not have affected the citizens outside of a year after, but it certainly did affect the government. They're the only ones calling for surveillance and spying on citizens."

Do pre-paid cellphones have any purpose other than doing illegal stuff with? Maybe arranging affairs on a secondary phone, but I doubt the US governments cares too much about that.

razer17:
Do pre-paid cellphones have any purpose other than doing illegal stuff with? Maybe arranging affairs on a secondary phone, but I doubt the US governments cares too much about that.

The purpose of pre-paid celllphones is to do phone stuff.

razer17:
Do pre-paid cellphones have any purpose other than doing illegal stuff with? Maybe arranging affairs on a secondary phone, but I doubt the US governments cares too much about that.

Having a phone and not being locked to a 2-year has a lot of applications if you have uneven income or a kid.

Also, needing an SSN to buy a phone? One of the legal applications for burner phones is foreign nationals needing a temporary one for their time in the states.

Benjamin Franklin:
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

I guess freedom has decreased in value.

Is the US Government are of how Orwellian this all sounds? Also how is spying on your own citizens supposed to stop terrorism?

razer17:
Do pre-paid cellphones have any purpose other than doing illegal stuff with? Maybe arranging affairs on a secondary phone, but I doubt the US governments cares too much about that.

My mother uses a prepaid for personal and business use, and I'm planning to go prepaid at some point.

It's just a choice. The US government does not care about anything other than monitoring every citizen. It could care less about terrorism, at least against Everyman Joe. The moment it threatens their operations, oh boy do they care.

Well the US government have built up so much good will by now that they must be wondering why citizens aren't handing their first-borns in for lifetime protection. Especially the republicans, such bastions of care and understanding.

008Zulu:

mad825:
a unified database

Here in Australia, you are required to show either a valid drivers license (or state issued i.d), or your passport. Both of those are unified databases.

I think what he meant was that, unless, when purchasing a cellphone using one of those IDs, your purchase is logged into a unified database, there isn't much of a point.

Moreover, what happens if you don't have either of those? You can't purchase a phone? That's equal parts stupid and silly.

Can phone calls from drop phones be traced back to the store that it was purchased, and if so - can be traced back to the individual who bought it? If yes, then I can totally see how this could limit crimes on both the local and federal level.

Will new legislation have to be introduced for giving away or selling phones, in the event said phone is used in a crime (and will said person be criminally liable for anything that transpired as a result of someone having an anonymous phone)? Will phone theft increase exponentially as a direct result of this bill?

It'll be up to the store to store said information, and will the government punish stores for not verifying ID? Will this lead to stores taking photocopies of ID's at the time of purchase to avoid any legal troubles? How long will they need to retain said information? Will photocopies of thousands of ID's in the hands of minimum wage employees lead to problems down the road?

These are the types of questions I would ask any lawmakers who wish to approve this bill. If they can't answer them, then they have no business voting on it.

canadamus_prime:
Is the US Government are of how Orwellian this all sounds? Also how is spying on your own citizens supposed to stop terrorism?

Short answer: The government expects its own citizens to be capable of terrorism. Ergo they spy on said citizens in the hopes of identifying and foiling terror plots in the making.

On topic: It bothers me that this representative wants to use this bill to prevent acts of terror, drug trades and slavery when his time would be better spent crafting a bill to track Facebook users who post pics of firearms. Most of them go on to become school shooters, don't they? Go after those loonies, government!

chadachada123:

Moreover, what happens if you don't have either of those? You can't purchase a phone? That's equal parts stupid and silly.

....Well...Someone else can buy it for you....Just like cigarettes and alcohol.

008Zulu:
Hang on, why aren't identity checks required under U.S law? This kind of thing just seems like common sense to me. It's been a requirement here in Australia since the beginning, for this very reason.

Because freedom.

Like, I don't have anything else to say. We already have claims of Orwellian measures, hints at Big Brother, and claims that this is solely to prevent anonymous communication.

razer17:
Do pre-paid cellphones have any purpose other than doing illegal stuff with? Maybe arranging affairs on a secondary phone, but I doubt the US governments cares too much about that.

My ex had bad credit and couldn't get a service contract. Her entire family used this kind of phone. I know a feww people who only have phones for emergencies, and they feel this is the more practical route. There are probably other reasons.

The Lizard King:
Can phone calls from drop phones be traced back to the store that it was purchased, and if so - can be traced back to the individual who bought it? If yes, then I can totally see how this could limit crimes on both the local and federal level.

They log the information on the phone at point of sale, last I knew. And I think you have to in order to activate it.

razer17:
Do pre-paid cellphones have any purpose other than doing illegal stuff with?

My phone is prepaid, because $100/year for something I barely use fits my budget better than $40/month.

Something Amyss:

Because freedom.

I thought America signed away it's freedom with the Patriot Act.

chadachada123:

Moreover, what happens if you don't have either of those? You can't purchase a phone? That's equal parts stupid and silly.

A parent, guardian or friend is allowed to register it for you. Just they have to accept all responsibility for how you use the phone.

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