According to the Sunday Times today, anyone in the UK who wants to buy a mobile phone will need to produce a valid passport as a form of ID soon.
The story is wrapped around the planned introduction of a national database to help combat crime and terrorism. The proposed database would contain details of every telephone call and every email sent in the UK along with information coverage individual Internet access usage.
Now it seems that in order to push ahead with this state surveillance scheme, the government is considering a compulsory national register for every owner of every one of the 72 million mobile phones in the UK. "Whitehall officials have raised the idea of a register containing the names and addresses of everyone who buys a phone in recent talks with Vodafone and other telephone companies" the Sunday Times reports.
It appears that the passport identity requirement is aimed squarely at those purchasers of prepaid mobiles, of which there are some 40 million or so in the UK alone. Currently these can be bought by anyone with the ready cash, and there is no record of the purchaser. No name, address or credit card details to link them to that purchase. This, the government argue, makes them wet dream material for criminals and terrorists.
Of course, it also ties in with the move towards that Big Brother database which would store details of all email, telephone and web browsing activity. Once again, to reduce crime and prevent terrorism. Having all that data would be pointless, the argument goes, without the details of the people who own the mobiles being used.
Well yes, apart from one small problem that some of you might have spotted: the criminals, and in particular the terrorists, are hugely unlikely to present genuine ID when buying such a phone. They tend to prefer to remain anonymous, you see.
So, as usual, the only people this database and this proposed mobile phone purchasing requirement will impact upon are the decent, law abiding citizens of the UK. One might even go as far as to argue that the government are well aware of this, and are simply using the war on terror stick to beat the public into a corner where everything they say and do is closely monitored by the Nanny State...