“While the encryption debate may have temporarily subsided, burner phones seem to be getting the spotlight.It might be because terrorists aren’t using encryption as much as they are utilizing the quick, easy, and anonymous method of obtaining and discarding a prepaid phone.”
I’ve often wondered why governments have spent so much time decrying the use of encryption when criminals can just get an untraceable burner phone and accomplish the same thing in a much simpler fashion. Heck, how many years of Law and Order episodes do we have where criminals used burner phones and yet no one ever made a big deal out of those being available.
Now, to be fair, there are some legitimate uses for prepaid, untraceable, phones. Domestic violence victims, for example, need a way to communicate and stay safe from their abusers, and if those abusers have access to the records involved, which they often do because they are married to the victim, then this law will make things more dangerous for those folks. Until I’ve had more time to look at the alternatives and the full impact, I wouldn’t go running to support this change, but it only makes sense that we would be having a discussion about this loophole first.
After all, the use of burner phones is something that forces us to balance the legitimate privacy concerns of users with the security needs of law enforcement without all the extra technical confusion over encryption. That’s truly the argument we should be having, how to balance privacy rights and law enforcement needs when it comes to technology. I suspect, however, that many want to look at the more technically complex areas just to take advantage of people’s confusion about the topic to install fear about it, instead of something they can easily understand.
So, encryption becomes the scary boogie man that terrorists use to keep hidden, because people don’t really understand the need for truly secure encryption that we all have.
Lots of people who have no idea how encryption works, on the other hand, have had, or know someone who has, a prepaid phone, for completely legitimate reasons. Let’s see how they feel about their right to privacy when it comes to something we all understand.