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You probably know about burner phones from televisions shows -- they are cheap, untraceable, disposable cell phones, and they may soon be a thing of the past if California Congresswoman Jackie Speier has her way. She has proposed a bill that would require everyone buying a phone in the US to register with a personal identification.
The proposed bill is meant to minimize crime and terrorist activities, eliminating opportunities for exchange between criminal elements. Although Speier may be underestimating the creativity of criminals and determination of terrorists, the proposal is certainly getting the attention of lawmakers and media.
The Proposed Bill
According to Speier, who announced the proposed bill in a Facebook post, "This bill would close one of the most significant gaps in our ability to track and prevent acts of terror, drug trafficking, and modern-day slavery."
Speir points out that the Paris terror attacks of last year were managed with burner phones, and says that focusing exclusively on phone encryption issues leaves a gap that can be closed. Speier said that failure to address the burner phone issue was a risk that Americans could not afford, in light of recent terror attacks in Pakistan and Belgium.
Burner phones are not just a threat in the context of terror but everyday crime as well. There has been increasing attention paid to the prevalence of cell phones in prison, too, which have allowed convicts to communicate freely with civilians and to conduct crimes while locked up inside.
It seems very likely that the bill will excite many legislators eager to act to do something to combat terror, which is difficult to fight. But the truth is that requiring identification for burner phones alone will not eliminate crime or terror. What may happen, however, is that a burner phone black market will be created, adding yet another item of contraband to the list of things they sell.