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Buying A Mobile Phone? You Will Need A Passport (Yes, Another Database coming)

The Government is pushing plans to make it compulsory for anyone purchasing a mobile phone to register on a grand database which, they say, will help them keep a close eye on criminals and terrorists and will include presenting a proof of identity prior to the purchase.

According to the Sunday Times (opens in new tab), the plans which form part of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith bigger scheme of things - in what we called the Mother of all databases - , will be proposed in the Communications Data Bill that she unveiled last week and aimed at the 72 million or so mobile phones in use in the UK.

Already though, customers can only buy a monthly contract if they provide with a direct debit account - which can be checked against bank details, but it seems that the new Home Office plans will be targetting the 40 million Pay As You Go (PAYG) mobile phones currently in use in the UK.

Obviously, such plans could easily be scuppered by criminals who could easily just steal mobile phones (like they do with cars) in order to plan their acts or they could use a service like Skype or foreign mobile phones. How will they regulate the likes of Ebay or Gumtree where thousands of SIMs and mobile phones are bought, sold and exchanged every day.

And it would certainly be disastrous for mobile phone networks like Vodafone or Orange who want to subscribe their rivals' customers to their own networks, very often through the use of no-frill, no-strings attached PAYG SIM packages.

Equally disastrous could be the impact it could have on phone bills, especially if the government wants the networks to shoulder part of the bill. This is doubly taxing for the poorer category of phone users who tend to use PAYG more. There are roughly 49 million PAYG subscribers in UK and around 27 million on contract accounts.

The mother of all databases also calls for all phone calls, emails, text messages and internet session carried out in United Kingdom to be logged and tracked (but not monitored or saved).


Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.