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Passports and PAYG phones: if you tolerate this your email will be next

The government wants to stop people from walking into shops and buying pay-as-you-go mobiles; in future, you’ll have to produce your passport. If you don’t have a passport? Tough shit.

The reason, inevitably, is that of the millions and millions of PAYG customers, a handful are – yes! – terrorists and organised criminals (two groups famed for their ability to produce or obtain fake passports, but I digress…).

The thing is, PAYG phones aren’t the only ways for people to communicate. There’s Skype, there’s email, there’s chat over public Wi-Fi…

/looks out the tinfoil, makes a new hat

7 replies on “Passports and PAYG phones: if you tolerate this your email will be next”

My immediate thought when I read about this was that surely it would make mobiles even more attractive for muggers.

or you could stand outside your local supplier and offer to buy a payg mobile, for a small fee of course, at fiver a pop doing 2 an hour that beats min wage

That’s what gets me about all this stuff. The people it’s supposedly aimed at know all too well how to get round the safeguards, so it leaves only the most inept, amateurish criminals and terrorists – and if they’re inept and amateurish, they’ll probably fuck up and get caught anyway. So what you’re left with is a system that monitors everybody *but* the bad guys.

/gets out more tinfoil, makes a bigger hat

You’ll have already seen this, from the register:

Outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald warned in a speech yesterday that expansion of state snooping powers was likely to be irreversible. “They will be with us forever,” he said. “And they in turn will be built upon.

“So we should take very great care to imagine the world we are creating before we build it. We might end up living with something we can’t bear.”

Unusually sensible sentiment, I thought.

Indeed.

Obviously this particular wheeze is part of a bigger picture, but what worries me about it is that it’s a reversal of what our relationship with the state is supposed to be. I was under the impression that politicians were elected to represent us, that they were our servants, not our masters.

…and that’s where you’re wrong. I lasted less than a year in the public sector after I couldn’t stomach the complete, utter ignorance of basic concepts like “there to serve the taxpayer” and “we are not here to nominate ourselves for awards and have two ‘vision statement away days’ per year.” You would think I had slapped my managers in the face when I questioned them on this. They literally do not get it. As far as they’re concerned, government is there to provide employment and grow itself. If you fix problems, you destroy public sector jobs.

As for passports for PAYG, presumably they won’t crack down on prepaid SIM cards available at any newsagent? And guess who’s going to foot the bill for the training and salaries of all the “mobile compliance agents” who will have to be stationed in every high street store.

Oh I know, I had dealings with various civil servants in a previous life (they’re not all bad, of course, but many of the ones I encountered were).

I can’t see the passport scheme working if it doesn’t cover SIMs. IMEIs on phones can be changed, can’t they? I’m sure it’s illegal, but it’s doable.

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