War on Terror Spawns a War on ‘Burner Phones’

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As Washington continues to wage the illusive “War on Terror,” lawmakers continue to look for ways to restrict our liberties in the name of freedom.

​​​​From my piece for the Advocates for Self-Government:

By:  Alice Salles

This article first appeared at VoicesOfLIberty

“A bill known as Closing the Pre-Paid Mobile Device Security Gap Act of 2016 seeks to require consumers looking into buying prepaid burner phones to register and provide identification. Requirements would make it impossible for consumers to purchase the so-called burner phones without providing personal information upon purchase. According to Tech Dirt, the bill’s timing may have something to do with reports claiming that burner phones used by Islamist extremists helped them to evade law enforcement.”

Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat, claims the proposal would close the burner phone “loophole” that represents an “egregious gap in our legal framework.” The move, however, would barely impact criminals. The series of unintended consequences tied to the proposal were also highlighted in  my piece:

“If Speier’s proposal is passed by both the House and the Senate and it ends up making it to the president’s desk, customers would have to always provide their personal details to retailers whenever they purchase a burner phone. But what Tech Dirt writers claim is that, even if the law were to pass, it would do little to keep terrorists or criminals from providing their personal information. Instead, Tech Dirt argues, criminals would continue doing what they have already done in the past by using straw purchases or buying directly from resellers.

Much like the debate about background checks for gun purchases, the idea of forcing retailers to request extra information from prepaid phone consumers is likely to backfire, pushing criminals further into the dark. Another potential consequence of passing this law would be that the poor will be the first to suffer.

Too often, low income consumers choose to purchase burner phones because of credit issues or simply because they do not have the identification requirements needed to open an account with a phone service provider. A burner phone law change would end up inflicting further difficulties on those who are already suffering greatly. Furthermore, boosting restrictions could also push the price of these affordable phones up, which will also end up hurting the poor.”

This article first appeared at VoicesOfLiberty