UK Phone Buyers: Must Show Passport & Register In National Database

from the surveillance-state dept

It appears that the UK is really moving towards a total surveillance state. Along with plans that we’ve already discussed to monitor all communications, it appears that you may not be able to buy a mobile phone without a passport and without registering your information in a national database. The reasoning, not surprisingly, is to try to keep tabs on terrorists who have been using prepaid phones that can’t be traced easily back to their owners. Of course, what this really will do is create a much bigger nuisance for most (non-terrorist) residents, opening up potential privacy breaches all while doing almost nothing to slow down terrorist activity. That’s because it won’t be that difficult for terrorists to find other means of communication that don’t require registration. It’s really a shame to see countries give up the freedoms that made them great.

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Comments on “UK Phone Buyers: Must Show Passport & Register In National Database”

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Jake says:

I take minimal comfort in the fact that the fees charged by Highly Paid Consultants employed to tell the government exactly what it wants to hear will wipe out 99% of the budget allocated for the database, obliging them to hire some second-year software engineering student bidding for work on the Internet, who’ll do the whole thing in Excel in a weekend. Then, mere weeks before it goes live, the chairman of a cellphone provider will present the government with a large campaign contribution and the whole thing will be quietly buried.

Welcome to 21st century Great Britain.

CeeVee (profile) says:

getting from here to there

What most of these government proposals forget is that they are not starting with a blank sheet of paper.
There are already a huge number of mobile phone owners in the UK most of whom would not give up their details for a government database.
A large proportion of those existing users don’t have a passport or even a driving licence, (kids etc)
A large proportion of those users have prepay phones and will not show up on any network as a customer (kids again)
So just how are they going to populate this mythical database with any sort of accurate data ?

c.powell (profile) says:

Re: freedom

I don’t know if Mr. Franklin foresaw the Internet but it’s as true, even more true today than it was then. This needs to be posted everywhere people read the most. We have forgotten what we came to this country for. We could have stayed in England and saluted the Queen each day. Freedom can mean many things but not when it gives terrorists more freedom than it does to us. Can’t anyone in D.C. look farther than two months away and see the future of this? Why, no, I don’t believe they can. Maybe we should mention it to some of them or send them a ticket to come home.

Enrico Suarve says:

F###s SAKE!!

It’s every bloody day at the moment

ID Cards
Biometric RFID Passports
28 Day detention without trial
42 Day detention without trial
Post-charge questioning
Confiscation of property without trial
Extra punishment without trial beyond original sentencing
A new offence for volunteer workers of not giving police information
A new offence of providing information about the armed forces
Register of all school children, their parents and carers (ContactPoint)
Databases of all communications

And now Restrictions on bloody phones???

It’s getting damned hard to object to this stuff there’s just so much of it and so much is slipping past hidden inside other bills

It’s not unlike the UK version of the Patriot act in slow-mo. To those of you seemingly thinking we are just ‘giving away’ our freedoms – nope all the above is being fought and the bits that got through were done despite many people who are still fighting

Just like the average US citizen never got much of a say over the Patriot act, Guantanamo or the recent bank bonus payout, we aren’t exactly getting much of a say over here

I used to think Americans were mental with their 5th amendment – I’m starting to see the benefits – if there’s one person who needs to meet a lone gunman it’s Jacqui Smith

PaulT (profile) says:

Christ, another one of these? Anyway, I feel I have to counter the anti-Brit sentiment here, even though I don’t live in my native country any more (a decision made for mainly climate and pace-of-life reasons – I’m in Spain now – than anything else):

– This, like most such stories, is a PROPOSAL. Not law, not anywhere as imminent as the story makes out, and like the calls database, likely to be heavily opposed.

– The part of the proposal being missed by Mike and the commenters here is this:

“The move aims to close a loophole in plans being drawn up by GCHQ…”

i.e., the aforementioned calls database, which is already being heavily opposed (see links below) and is unlikely to be passed in its current form. In which case, this proposal will disappear along with it. So, not a new story, just an extra wrinkle in the old one.

– Like most such stories, this is exaggerated. Every time this crap comes up, it’s from a right-wing rag such as the Daily Fail or the Times. I’ve just tried searching in the BBC and Independent – much more level-headed sources – and can’t find anything about this addition, though it may have been in the original articles (they don’t split us the scare factors into separate articles). Plenty about the massive opposition to other proposals, nothing about this. Make of that what you will.

– The vast majority of stories like this are either false, exaggerated or both. Yet, Americans seem to think they’re all true for some reason. Look at the CCTV statistics, for example. Americans seem to believe the crap that every street in the UK is under heavy government surveillence, but that’s absolutely not true. A single study was reported, that extrapolated data from a single street in London, mainly based on *private* security cameras. That’s stupid – imagine if a single street in New York was used to represent the entire USA – but somehow Americans seem to think that it’s completely true.

So, a non-story. If this ever gets passed (not guaranteed in today’s political climate), it will fail. As noted above, it’ll be completely unworkable until every single current PAYG mobile phone owner is logged (note, this is not targeted at “every mobile phone owner”, only those buying prepaid phones who currently can pay cash and leave no trace). That’s basically impossible and there’s ways around being tracked even if this had been in place forever.

Could we just stop with this Brit bashing? Not only are privacy concerns overhyped when it comes to this kind of stuff, but it’s also pretty rich coming from the land of Homeland “Security” and the “Patriot” Act. The only time recently that I’ve felt like my liberty was being violated was when I entered the US and had to be scrutinised there, although I’ve been to both the US and UK on regular occasions in rceent years.

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: Re:

Hi Paul

Yes it’s only a proposal but unfortunately I fail to share your optimism – this is a textbook example of one of the methods used by UK governments to get unpopular laws passed

It works like this:

1) I create a bill with lots of individual items within it
2) Within this bill a few items are genuinely detestable – most are innocuous and just fluff
3) I make sue the MOST controversial and least popular part is highly visible in the bill (at the top is good)
4) I get bill read at parliament
5) Lots of backlash – angry shouts all around “Grr grr madam speaker” etc
6) In response to backlash I repent and state I will remove the bit everybody objected to in order to pass through the other vitally important pieces and the bit no one read on page 2,973
7) Lots of politicians from both sides are chuffed and get to look like saviours, championing their constituents rights – earning respect and more votes
8) Bill gets passed in its new form
9) A year later everyone wonders how the hell eating cake on a Sunday became an arrestable offence…

It gets a bit more confused if it actually goes through parliament in its first reading and then gets stopped in the House of Lords (42 days), but basically it’s the same tactic when the bill is redrafted following this

All that is different on this occasion is that a few people are spotting it going on and actually reading the bit on P. 2,344,549, realising what this means and reporting it separately; not a bad thing in my opinion and definitely not something to be singled out and attacked for as ‘scaremongering’.

You are correct about the source of David Davis’ “1 camera for 14 folks” comments (which I assume is what you are referencing), the maths is a little suspect for exactly the reason you spell out expect it was more than just one street; but since you live in Spain now I’ll spell it out for you – I live in a north east town and CCTV is everywhere. I don’t care how many it amounts to per head; and since the government has no interest in these figures for obvious reasons probably we’ll never know. What I do know is that every street in town is covered by at least one council cam (although oddly enough bugger all back alleys), and yes I find this overly intrusive.

Try watching the latest reality TV ‘Cops on Camera’ crap on ITV, it’s kind of telling how the American versions are always patrol car mounted cameras but the UK versions always seem to manage a lot more angles…

“it’ll be completely unworkable until every single current PAYG mobile phone owner is logged” yup – and how hard is that going to be? ‘By law all mobile phone operators must now reject top-ups for accounts that have not yet registered their owners, PAYG owners may register by bringing ID documents and their SIM to any mobile phone shop’… Job done.

I agree the hypocrisy from a nation who condone the patriot act and extraordinary rendition is at least kind of amusing, but burying our heads in Spanish sand and stating “it’s all OK” and “anyone who disagrees is right wing” is at best naïve

The very fact your government is coming up with suggestions like this on an ongoing, regular basis and that some of them are making it into law or being implemented, says this is not under control, and that this long since stopped being a ‘trend’ and started being ‘policy’

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I understand what you’re saying, but I still maintain that most of this is exaggerated. There’s a lot of proposals on the table, from biometrics and ID cards to monitoring – that will probably never come to pass in the form currently proposed. If they do, I personally believe the average British citizen is more at risk from the massive financial loss caused by the inevitably bloated, insecure and inefficient system that’s built than they are from any loss of privacy.

I agree with your assessment of how these things usually go, but there’s only so far these things are able to be pushed. We are fully capable of pushing back against the government, and if something is truly onerous or affects a lot of innocent citizens (just wait till errors in the system start fingering 12 year olds as terrorists), it will be fought and fought hard. Assuming it gets that far, which I doubt it will in anything like its current form.

As for me “burying my head in the sand”, no that’s far from the truth. I’m from a large town in the Midlands, and I visit at least 3 times a year. There are virtually no CCTV cameras outside the town centre, apart from on warehouses and other private property, and the only other cameras around are the inevitable speed cameras. I’m fully aware of what’s going on there, and I still maintain my vote and representation.

I’m not saying “anyone who disagrees is right wing” (though they usually are). I’m just tired of the fringe cases and worst-case scenarios peddled by these rags being believed to be the truth. I’ve talked to people in the States (in the flesh, not online) who seem to be convinced that the entire country is some kind of totalitarian police state, and it’s so far from the honest truth it’s insane and very annoying. Especially on a site like Techdirt – I usually agree with Mike’s articles, so it’s frustrating to see him push this kind of scare story as if it’s already law.

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Fair enough (and sorry for the head in the sand bit – bad day)

I can see where you’re coming from in that this stands little chance of being passed, but given our recent record of bad laws it’s not as unlikely as I’d like it to be

It can indeed be frustrating when other countries see these articles and assume they are all spot on and a sign we have effectivly given in and are now a police state; especially when those making the assumptions are Americans and a damn site closer to one than us. Having greeted friends and business contacts coming from abroad at Heathrow and heard their stories of the mini Hitlers in immigration, I can imagine where they might start to get the impression though (I know my opinon of America is coloured in a large part by my experience of their Border Stasi)

However, I do feel these articles at least serve a point and am glad of them – they inform us of what is going on and they at least give us a chance to lobby against bad laws before they are snuck in – I’d rather a few paranoid posting and a bit of uninformed Brit bashing than the alternative

Perhaps I am a nut (enough people tell me so) but in a sensible society with a sensible government we wouldn’t be having this conversation since the law we are discussing would never have made it into the bill (which also wouldn’t exist)

Twinrova says:


It’s really a shame to see countries give up the freedoms that made them great.
Plural. Interesting. It’s good to recognize the United States is giving up much more freedoms than the UK has, especially since most laws in the UK are usually quelled by the masses.

I guess the gov’t there is still afraid of its people, unlike this damn country.

Yes, that’s an anti-American statement and as a citizen, I’m “free” to express it (but watch how many get all pissy over it).

I’m tired of watching this country destroy itself while the sheople sit back and screw each other over for the dollar.

Because in this country, it takes repeated actions* to occur before anyone does anything to “fight”.
*I made a reference to 9/11, but decided to take it out as not to offend the weak readers who wouldn’t make the distinction of the comment and would take it on “face value”.

I don’t hear Brits bitching about their gov’t as they’re too busy fighting the stupid rules it comes up with.

Let the irony show how websites like this are popular but the changes don’t happen. Hell, if they did happen, this website wouldn’t exist, now would it?

Rob says:

A similar law is going to be passed in Mexico, this to try counteract not terrorism, but what it is called “express kidnapping”, where someone would get a call saying that their kid, husband, wife, etc has been kidnapped and ask for a express ransom. Also to limit access to cellphones to jailed prisoners (instead of blocking the cell signals over jails).

Stupid laws passed by ignorant politicians, nothing else.

David says:

Passports for phones

I do not possess a passport, never having been abroad and having no desire to do so. So just what do I do if if my present phone goes belly up and I need to replace it? This latest government suggestion has me rolling over in disbelief. Has there been general publicity about this, well away from “geeky” newsletters, to get the general, non-techie computer-using public involved? Never seem to see this sort of thing in the tabloids or on the 6 o`clock news. Do folk actually know what their esteemed government is up to?
I`m sure this is definitely going to stop terrorism (not). It`s laughable. They can always go to VOIP – isn`t Skype encrypyted, or is there really a back-door in?

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