‘Burner phones’ may require verifiable ID if California bill passes

© Paulo Whitaker
Burner phones, beloved by criminals and TV writers everywhere, could be a thing of the past if a new bill by California lawmakers passes.

The proposed law would require prepaid phone customers to register their personal details before purchasing a burner phone or SIM card.

The Closing of Prepaid Mobile Device Security Gap bill, introduced by Jonestown massacre survivor State Rep Jackie Speier, could make it harder for those hoping to communicate anonymously.

Retailers would be required to verify those details at purchase and keep a record of the details gathered.

Despite hysteria surrounding encryption and its role in terrorism, the Paris attackers used prepaid phones to communicate rather than encryption.

"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," Speier said.

Terrorists and others wishing not to be tracked often use multiple burner phones, with some only using the phone once before moving on to another.

While the bill wouldn’t prevent customers from using fake or stolen identification to buy the phones, it would make things more complicated for terrorists who are currently able to buy prepaid phones in bulk. 

The bill is the latest in efforts by politicians to crack down on technology that doesn’t allow easy government access.

Earlier in the year, lawmakers in California and New York sought to ban the sale of phones that have full encryption.