China to end anonymous cellphone purchases, will require ID to buy mobile devices

The government of China plans to require that anyone buying a mobile device first register their personal details. China isn't the first: many European and Asian countries already have similar measures in place to prevent anonymous use of cellphones and mobile data devices.


    1. Far as I know, it’s EU nations. I believe it was to be called (or is called) the Data Retention Directive. Boils down to making anonymous e-mail illegal, tracking of all cell phone use/location via GPS, etc. Typical big brother stuff. FUD laws enacted as a result of Madrid train bombings & other terrorist acts.

      In the US this last May, the Senate raised the issue of banning all anonymous pre-paid cellular phone use.

      Keep watching guys – can’t wait ’til I get a big brother cam in my bathroom.

      1. AFAIK the Directive doesn’t cover anonymous email (good luck trying to ban that) and it does not track locations via GPS, but using the cell ID.

  1. …sales of fake ID up…harder the fist squeezes the more squish out the gaps between digits.
    and for all our western centric finger pointing, our govt does all sorts of data collection too (a general swie,but true) The iPhone, for one,is known to take all sorts of screenshots and location data and even upload to servers or at least store it, law enforcement have found it handy.

    and further fun? I cannot post a comment here without hiding my IP address(from Kanada, no less)

  2. Slightly off topic but of a piece with this, in Italy you have to hand over a piece of ID before using the internet in an Internet cafe. Least, you did last time I was there.

  3. Yeah, apparently cellphones are dangerous terrorist weapons. We had to register details both in Germany and Australia, the two places my husband and I have bought (pre-paid) mobiles.

    In Australia they wouldn’t even let us buy two mobiles on the one piece of ID. (My husband didn’t have his drivers’ licence with him the day we went to buy our mobiles.) Instead we had to come back the next day. Apparently the limit is one mobile per ID per 24 hours, or something.

    (Actually we just went to another shop to buy the other one. There doesn’t seem to be any central communication.)


  4. The Australian law was passed after prepaid cellphones were used to coordinate a prison breakout.

    ‘Cos, you know, hardened crims would totally not have access to stolen phones or fake ID.

  5. Yep it’s true it’s been all over the news here. But Fake ID’s are super easy to get, and being as SIM card points of sale are probably over a million, there’s no way everyone’s going to check. Just like the rule that you have to show your ID when you go to a net bar here, half the time they don’t check, their more concerned about making as much money as they can.

  6. China still is much more lenient than South Korea.

    In China you can use any unlocked phone compatible with the local networks, just by buying a SIM card Because there are so many “grey-market” phones imported from outside of China, they probably won’t change this policy unless they want a riot on their hands.

    In South Korea, you essentially can’t use a phone not purchased in Korea unless 1) you were willing to pay your home-network’s roaming fees through the nose, or 2) have it registered at some state radio registry of some sort, pay about a $200 fee, then get a SIM from a local carrier. Fanboys who were waiting for the iPhone to be released in the Korean market forked over the extra cost just to be able to have an iPhone.

    In China just find some mom-and-pop shack that is willing to hand over a SIM card with cash without asking for ID. There was already rumors that you were required to register your ID/passport, but I haven’t seen it enforced if it has ever become law.

    As for buying a phone as a foreigner (pre-paid or post-paid) in South Korea, of course they must photocopy your passport and visa, and your phone number EXPIRES the day your visa expires, and your prepaid credits evaporate. If you get your visa extended you must visit a carrier store and have them register it.

    This was an improvement over the older policy, which was you had to bring in a friend who was willing to register the phone under her national ID number, and you had to always buy a beat up used phone so that it was “registered” previously (it was some crazy loophole that was now made officially OK).

  7. We’ve had this for a while already (Malaysia). But the registration rule is only for prepaid (aka pay-as-you-go) simcards. Not phones. The system is fairly efficient and ineffective.

    The dealers who sell you the simcards are supposed to key in your details into a wireless terminal or a website. Only after the network gets this details, is your new simcard activated and usable. This takes a few minutes to an hour or two.

    The dealer is also supposed to photocopy your ID and keep it on file. Some don’t do the photocopy. Some throw it away after a while. Most of the rest probably cannot find it later if asked.

    There is no central bureaucracy to keep all this info. It’s kept on the computers of each network. There is no extra cost incurred by the government. There is one advantage to this system for the customer. In the past, if you had a prepaid simcard, and you lost your phone (and simcard), you have to get a new number. Now the networks can replace your simcard, and you get to keep your old number.

    OTOH, AFAIK, nobody checks what is keyed into the system. If you’re a “bad guy”, you can bribe somebody to key in fake data, show a fake ID, or keep trying another shop until you find a shop that will just allow you to write down your details on a piece of paper, instead of showing real ID. The people at the shops tasked with collecting this info are typically low paid sales people.

  8. In Germany, the law requires “telecommunications service providers” (i.e. cell phone carriers) to store your name and address and provide it to The Man on request (i.e. when you’ve done something to attract attention, or have been within range of the same cellphone tower as someone who was doing something to attract attention at the time, or when The Man is just bored and looking for something to do…), but the carriers are not held responsible for the *accuracy* of the information.

    So, for prepaids, where the carrier has no business interest in accurate information, a minimal amount of shopping around will find you a carrier who doesn’t bother to verify the name and address you typed into their registration website from an internet cafe.

    Bottom line: The privacy of Decent People (TM) who provide accurate information is eroded, while anyone with the motivation to stay anonymous is completely unaffected.

    Germans: This Saturday is the day to get out on the street and push back against such bullshit:

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