CA Democrat Jackie Speier has introduced a bill that would require ID for all pre-paid phone purchases. Titled “Closing the Pre-Paid Mobile Device Security Gap Act of 2016,” the law has some very nasty provisions in it. Let’s take a look.
In order to buy a burner phone, you’d need to provide the following:
(1) Your full name.
(2) Your complete home address.
(3) Your date of birth.
Of course, it’s not enough to simply tell them this information. You need to provide documentation.
(1) A photographic identification card issued by the Federal Government or a State government, or a document considered acceptable for purposes of subparagraph (B), (C), or (D) of section 274A(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1324a(b)(1)).
(A) A Form W–2 Wage and Tax Statement received from the Internal Revenue Service, provided that such form has been received from the Internal Revenue Service within the prior 18 months.
(B) A Form 1099 Social Security Benefit Statement received from the Social Security Administration, provided that such form has been received from the Social Security Administration within the prior 18 months.
(C) A Form 1099 received from any other agency of the Federal Government other than the Social Security Administration, including the Internal Revenue Service, provided that such form has been received within the prior 18 months.
(D) Any document containing personal identifying information that the Attorney General finds, by regulation, to be acceptable for purposes of this section.
If you’re buying it online, you’ll need to offer a host of information as well:
(1) Valid credit or debit card account information.
(2) Social Security number.
(3) Driver’s license number.
(4) Any other personal identifying information that the Attorney General finds, by regulation, to be necessary for purposes of this section.
What happens if you use fake documents or lie about who you are for the purposes of personal liberty? Well, penalties, of course!
(a) False or misleading statements.—A purchaser who knowingly provides false or misleading information when providing the identifying information and documents required under sections 2 and 3 shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331 of such title), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591 of such title, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.
So what happens to your information, once you’ve purchased this phone? Naturally the data is kept by the wireless carrier, the merchant, everyone.
After an authorized reseller has transmitted a sale record to a wireless carrier in accordance with section 5, the wireless carrier shall—
(1) provide a transmission confirmation receipt to the authorized reseller, after the receipt of which the authorized reseller shall dispose promptly of any retained copy of the record; and
(2) retain the transmitted sale record in accordance with the privacy protections of section 222 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 222) for a period of 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. [emphasis added]
Let’s recap. If you want a burner phone—which is your right—this bill would force you to provide all kinds of personal information, keep a record of your purchase, and literally jail you for noncompliance or false statements. The best part? Look at the stated purpose of the bill:
To require purchasers of pre-paid mobile devices or SIM cards to provide identification, and for other purposes. [emphasis added]
What other purposes? Use your imagination.
The noose is tightening every day. It’s long past time to look at alternate ways to communicate. Meatspace, however preferable, is not always an option. You need to learn how to protect yourself and the people you work with. Look into Bitmessage, Antox, VPNs, and other ways to communicate securely.