Germany to require ID for buying prepaid phones

Those who prefer their mobile phone to remain anonymous are in for a shock in Germany, as ministers agreed on Wednesday to require anyone buying a pay-as-you-go SIM card to present ID.

Germany to require ID for buying prepaid phones
File photo: DPA

“You could buy a prepaid phone today in the name of Donald Duck,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said after the weekly cabinet meeting.

“Knowledge is power. And we want to oppose terrorist organizations powerfully,” he went on in a press conference defending the new anti-terror law that the rule falls under.

Telecom companies will be required to ask for ID – German ID card, foreign passport or temporary ID papers issued to migrants and refugees  – when customers buy a prepaid SIM or phone.

Until now the law only asked that those buying pay-as-you-go phones give a name, address and date of birth – which authorities say is all easily falsified information if not checked.

More powers for investigators

As well as the new rules for telecoms, there will be new powers for Germany's domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (VS).

The law will authorize the VS to set up shared databases with “important foreign intelligence agencies” – especially neighbouring countries and EU or NATO allies – to track terror suspects as they move across borders.

Information on terror suspects could soon be flowing from German government servers to neighbouring and allied countries. File photo: DPA

German intelligence services will also be required to improve information sharing among themselves.

“If international terrorists are networking amongst themselves, security authorities also have to link up better than before,” de Maizière said on Wednesday.

SEE ALSO: German spies want right to keep tabs on teens

Federal police will also be authorized to use undercover officers in their investigations of criminal gangs, a power which until now has been restricted to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

The new power for the federal police is aimed at breaking gangs of people smugglers bringing people into Germany.

Opposition cries foul

“The new anti-terror package mixes up widely varying enlargements of powers for the security services that cut deep into basic rights and aren't in any way limited to the fight against terrorism,” Green party digital rights spokesman Konstantin von Notz and interior policy spokeswoman Irene Mihalic said in a statement.

The Greens argue that sharing information with other countries risks breaching German data protection rules.

They add that requiring ID for pre-paid SIM cards throws up further “legal concerns” – without taking into account the fact that “there remain numerous possibilities for getting around [the rules]”.

“With this law the Interior Minister is taking the next step for building up the preventive security state,” Left party MP Martina Renner told digital rights site

“Any conceivable tiny gap for citizens to escape the grasp of state data collection is to be closed… This has nothing to do with citizens' ability to determine what happens with their own information.”

SEE ALSO: 60,000 Germans want Google to forget them

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