Cory Doctrow doesn’t seem too impressed with Britain’s plan to require passports for the purchase of mobile phones; the move is aimed primarily at prepaid/pay-as-you-go phones. His objections are understandable enough, given the implications for civil liberties. As The Times reports:
The pay-as-you-go phones are popular with criminals and terrorists because their anonymity shields their activities from the authorities. But they are also used by thousands of law-abiding citizens who wish to communicate in private.
The move aims to close a loophole in plans being drawn up by GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, to create a huge database to monitor and store the internet browsing habits, e-mail and telephone records of everyone in Britain.
The “Big Brother” database would have limited value to police and MI5 if it did not store details of the ownership of more than half the mobile phones in the country.
I understand the concerns, I really do. However, I had to provide a copy of my passport when I went to buy a mobile in the UAE (and had to provide a copy or the original document for just about anything) and didn’t find it a big deal. I’m certainly someone who enjoys his privacy, so I guess I was just rolling with it. That said I’m fairly sure the UAE didn’t keep my details for use by the intelligence services.by