Monday, December 05, 2005

Rogue SIM cards, rogue nanny states

Category: [in English] [Global politics] [Filipino Soul] [Geeky & Tools]

In an article in the Brussels Journal, Chresten Anderson comments on the agreement between the justice and interior ministers of the 25 European Union member countries last Friday, to force providers to store all data of phone, cell phone (CP) and Internet communications for at least 6 to 24 months. Chresten Anderson is the president and founder of the Copenhagen Institute, the leading free market think tank in Denmark.

It is becoming quite obvious that the mandatory logging of communications (not only CP but also web-traffic), as proposed or even enforced already by the EU and nanny-states like Belgium is yet another excuse to invade our privacy. The "terrorism threat" popped up just as a convenient excuse to implement the logging scheme. It must be very naive (even for a EU-mandarin) to assume that terrorists or criminals use traceable CP's.

Even in Belgium, it's quite simple to get hold of a rogue SIM card. The shop attendant asks for a copy of your ID, but you can fake that one easily. He is not supposed (yet?) to connect to the central nanny-state database to verify the copy’s validity. Even if that would become mandatory, there will still be plenty of rogue SIM cards available on the black market. Just like non-registered guns in Brussels are.

In the Philippines for instance, the CP and txting (SMS) capital of the world, SIM cards are freely and anonymously available and dirt cheap: 99 P or 1.20 Euro. Many people (including myself) have several SIM's for different purposes. A popular thing is a SIM card for your spouse and your colleagues, and another one for your mistress(es). All these SIM's are prepaid, of course. Nobody would trust a Filipino postpaid billing scheme anyways in this flamboyantly corrupt and mismanaged country. One can activate the roaming function on these cards for a small and anonymous fee. When I returned to Belgium a couple of weeks ago, I noticed my card still worked, in roaming function.

Need reloading it with credit? I bought myself a few prepaid cards with reload codes in Manila, which I can activate from within Belgium (or from anywhere else) by a simple txt. Piece of cake. If I was a terrorist, that would be a safe and handy way to communicate. Connections can be tracked, but the track would end up nowhere.

Net cafés offer another anonymous and obvious way to surf the net and to email about sensitive matters. But don’t forget to clean the cache and the cookies of the browser when leaving the machine in that case. At least one member EU country, Italy, realized this loophole, and now it imposes an ID check by Net café attendants to all their customers, as well as keeping a log of the websites they visit, the machines they use, and their login and logout times.

Once again, how naïve. One can’t expect a real terrorist to carry his own ID. Fake ID’s are easy to come by. And shop or café attendants don’t have the proper resources, as police and customs do, to verify an ID’s validity. But they do have to buy expensive tracking software. Customers on the other hand are just harassed by the Italian regulation and they back off in masses from Net cafés in Italy now. And that’s it.

What a fine way to destroy small businesses. What’s next? Logging all the email addresses, user names and passwords? A state-approved PIN code to order a pizza? "Terrorists" might enjoy a pizza too, perhaps.

A Thought

The EU nanny states are fishing with a very expensive net that will catch and kill only small useless fish, but lets the sharks escape.


Big EU Brother Is Listening
L’UE met en place la loi «Big Brother» anti-vie privée


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Brussels Journal is a piece of crap. Read something interesting please.

12:07 AM  

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