New Bill To Require ID To Purchase Prepaid Phones

Jonestown survivor State Representative Jackie Speier of California introduced a bill last week that would “require purchasers of pre-paid mobile devices or SIM cards to provide identification, and for other purposes.”

In a press release about Speier’s bill introduction, “burner” phones were described as “pre-paid phones that terrorists, human traffickers, and narcotics dealers often use to avoid scrutiny by law enforcement because they can be purchased without identification and record-keeping requirements.”

Speier sees this as a “legal gap”, which her bill –  Closing the Pre-Paid Mobile Device Security Gap Act of 2016 also known as H.R.4886 – aims to close up. She said in a statement that “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”.

Under this proposed legislation, a vendor making any kind of prepaid phone or SIM card sale will be required to obtain the following information from the purchaser:

  • Full name
  • Home address
  • Date of birth

In-person purchases will require a photo ID and any two of the following:

  • Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement
  • Form 1099 Social Security Benefit Statement
  • Form 1099 received from any other agency of the Federal Government other than the Social Security Administration
  • Any document containing personal identifying information that the Attorney General finds, by regulation, to be acceptable

Not In-person purchases and other kinds of purchases will require the following:

  • Credit card or debit card account information
  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Any other personal identifying information that the Attorney General finds, by regulation, to be necessary

This information along with the:

  • Date of sale
  • Name of manufacturer
  • Name of wireless carrier
  • Any assigned phone number or known phone number
  • IMEI
  • IMSI
  • Electronic serial number
  • Mobile equipment identifier
  • Machine address code

Will be stored with a copy of it given to the wireless carrier no later than 30 days after the sale.

One may note that the information this bill demands is on par with normal contract phones.

Additionally, it isn’t required that the transmission of this information be done securely.

“… an authorized reseller may transmit the sale record to the wireless carrier by means of secure electronic transmission.”

In accordance with the privacy protections of Section 222 of the Communications Act of 1934, the record of the sale will be retained for 18 months or “until the wireless carrier stops or otherwise discontinues providing service to the pre-paid mobile device or SIM card to which the sale record relates.”

Anyone who attempts to make a purchase using false information will be imprisoned for up to 5 years. If their case involves terrorism, they will be imprisoned for up to 8 years.

Unauthorized sale of prepaid phones or SIM cards will be met with imprisonment up to 2 years.

“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.’” Speier continued in her statement. “As we’ve seen so vividly over the past few days, we cannot afford to take these kinds of risks. It’s time to close this ‘burner phone’ loophole for good.”

Interestingly, her announcement of this bill was met with overwhelmingly negative criticism.

On another note, what Speier is trying to do has already been done in South Africa through RICA (Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act) and all it did was create a black market for prepaid phones and SIM cards.

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