The anonymity of buying prepaid cellular phones may soon come to an end, as a proposed federal law would require buyers to show identification, according to Yahoonews.com.
Officials believe that the anonymous purchase of prepaid devices could assist criminals in executing illegal activity.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposed the bill in May, explaining buyers would have to show I.D. and merchants would retain the information so officials could trace the phones.
“This proposal is overdue because for years, terrorists, drug kingpins and gang members have stayed one step ahead of the law by using prepaid phones,” Schumer told the New York Daily News.
But the proposed plan could ultimately lead to frustration on the part of legitimate buyers of prepaid phones, who often can’t afford traditional cell phone plans. Many groups argue that the bill could also diminish an individual’s right to privacy.
Still, the ability to track cell phones used by criminals has often assisted in their capture.
The man who attempted to set off a bomb in Times Square earlier this year was apprehended by authorities because the same phone number he had given customs officials matched the number he had used to call the seller of the car used in the incident.
“We caught a break in catching the Times Square terrorist, but usually a prepaid phone is a dead end for law enforcement,” Schumer told the New York Daily News.
Experts point out that if the bill passes, it could slow sales of the currently-thriving prepaid cell phone business. According to the Associated Press, phone companies sold $16 billion worth of prepaid cell phones in 2009.