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ID Required from Buyers of New Mobile Phone Numbers in China

Wed 08 Sep, 2010 // Firstnumber Team

It was announced last week that Chinese consumers looking to purchase a new mobile phone number will be required to produce a form of identification in order to complete the transaction. The move, which brings Chinese practices into line with many other European & Asian countries, is purported to prevent the illicit use of unregistered phones. This ranges from the sending of junk messages, to the usage of mobile technology for illegal activity such as drug crime and terrorism.

According to the China Daily newspaper, this legislation is the latest attempt to “curb the global scourge of spam, pornographic messages and fraud on cellular phones”. At first glance this seems to be a reasonable measure with which to regulate any illicit behaviour via cellular technology, an impression reinforced by the knowledge that many other European, Asian, and Latin American nations impose similar restrictions.

However, many sceptics believe this additional layer of security to be nothing more than an additional means for the state to exert ever increasing power over the Chinese public. The necessity to hand over greater amounts of personal data during this simple transaction is seen by many, including various human rights activists, to be a ploy for the government to track individuals with greater ease and efficiency.

The developing culture of text or Twitter-organized rallies or protests – as noticeable in countries as far apart as Scotland and Iran – has led to an accompanying level of concern from governmental authority.

In addition to the heightened capacity for the tracking of potentially disruptive members of the public, it has also been suggested that the regulation is the latest example of the tightening government control over communication technologies. The Chinese Human Rights Defenders, based in Hong Kong, view this demand for identification as a further means of censoring internet content in China. Already, sites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are blocked in the Communist state.

A further complication of the regulation is the worry that many mobile phone number vendors will re-sell the personal information it is given access to. It is thought that the rules may then give rise to a prospering black market in legally registered SIM cards, and subsequently enable spammers to circumvent the restrictions in place.

The new rules will be applicable to everyone within China, including short-stay visitors to the country. With this in mind, and if you aren't keen to give out your personal details, Firstnumber offers access codes for cheap international calls, and can provide you with the means to keep in touch with friends and family outside China.

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