Why SIM Card registration won’t solve crime

Picture this. A man walks into a mall store wanting to buy a SIM Card. A prepaid SIM, so the sales lady, by law is required to ask for ID. Sales Lady will get said ID, write it down on the receipt and it gets filed away somewhere.

Oh, yeah, the ID is just some copy made from Recto.

It is also very easy today to create an ID. Hell, to create a false ID. It is very easy today to forge IDs. Terrorists will simply ante up their game, and buy fake IDs.

PrePaid SIM cards are not just used for terrorism. Their anonymity is often used to digitally assault women. I’ve known far too many people, dear friends who have been Victims of this. I’ve known relatives who are victims of this as well. There is Sex and Crime in the time of New Media.

One of the features of PrePaid SIMs is that the networks can’t triangulate the position. They can never tell you where exactly the SIMs are or where the message was sent.

So I think that SIM Card registration, while it may somewhat help out, it won’t prevent crime. It simply puts an added burden on civil liberties.

What should actually be a better way to solve crime, is to build signals intelligence. Build capacity so that government can track, triangulate positions of perpetrators. Of course, this should be protected by a court order, similar in strength to a warrant of arrest.

We got to fight crime. We got to be able to give Law Enforcement capacity to know their target, to figure things out. But we also have to balance this out with civil liberties, as well as it being the least burdensome for people. SIM Card registration puts burden on a third party, like the mall owner or the Telcos. That middle man should be cut from the equation.

Think of it this way, if we have better signals intelligence this could also help monitor terrorists. It can be an added tool in the fight for global crime, in locating targets in cyberspace.

We have to build capacity, and think long term. We also have to do it, in such a way as it is as invasive as possible. CCTV cameras are useful. They are passive and they can help track crime. London is one city which has them nearly everywhere. CCTV cameras can have the double use of watching traffic unfold. As we’ve seen in Singapore, sensors are everywhere. These sensors help monitor the city and help make things more efficient. It is these kinds of technology that our nation must adapt.

In my humble opinion these SIM Card registrations have limited effect and maybe be too much trouble than their worth. It’ll be a law that would barely, if at all stop crime.

We have to be smarter than that.

Let us not waste our time with half-assed measures, but instead build real capacity. Build a real cyber police force, that not only protects our citizens but become partners with our neighbors and allies abroad in hunting down terror. Build the ability to track criminals, not the general public.

We cannot fight crime by registering everything. Criminals should fear justice. Citizens shouldn’t have to look over their shoulder for that.

The argument could be made that we can’t trust government. That quite often it could be used for the sitting government’s perversion. The protection remain in the anonymity of prepaid purchase, of the protection of the court from abuse. We give government tools to let them do their job, but we shouldn’t make it too easy. Otherwise we are going to see a police state where fear reigns, not truth or justice.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • UP nn grad

    A reason they want the SIM cards registered is less to track phone-calls are the calls are being made but more to have a starting point when they find the triggering cellphone attached to an 81mm mortar shell. They get the SIM card, they get an owner (if the SIM card is registered). So maybe the phone was stolen from some high-school student in Vigan. That means investigators go to Vigan (and not to Trece Martires) to do the trail-pursuit.

    • Bert

      it’s less risky to get a Recto-made ID than to steal a cellphone.

  • Cocoy

    Well US law prevents the NSA to conduct wiretaps on US Citizens.

    Instead of a SIM card registration program, imho, a similar law, and a similar thrust needs to happen as part of a larger National Cyber Strategy.

    1. You can’t listen in on a Filipino citizen’s Voice, Internet, and cell signal, but you can ask for warrant to do so.

    Like say a woman is being stalked, she gets to ask the court for a warrant so police can entrap said stalker.

    2. Building a capacity such as this in country also helps prevent International crime such as cyberattacks, viruses, trojans etc., by adding a listening post in the region. Cybercrime is a transnational crime. It can’t be solved by one nation, but in a symphony.

    3. We can actually have the capacity to listen in on terrorists, at the same time be able to share intelligence with our friends and allies. Why would they share credible intelligence with our country when they don’t benefit? we got to be part of the conversation.

    THAT in my humble opinion is a better use of our taxpayer pesos and a better use of resources.

  • UP nn grad

    One of the things true is this — USA monitors international phone calls. Already, it happens. Very quickly, USA deletes phones calls made by US citizens, but all other phone-calls are fair game.

    Computer-software // Signal-processing software parses thru the data and only that miniscule number of phone-calls with an utterance of key phrases get passed on to human beings (analysts) for further analysis and call-tracking even when callers change phones.

    Maybe USA does not track phone calls from Nepal. Maybe, maybe not. But Pilipinas is number 8 in the list of countries bedevilled by terrorism. USA would be remiss in localizing terrorism trouble-spots if NSA/Goddard does not process cell and landline calls out of Mindanao.

    AND this — USA would be remiss if it does not alert Noynoy about increased chatter. USA’s NSA/Goddard signal-processing mathematics would translate into suspicion and probability-estimates.. leaving it up to Noynoy team to Noynoy to tell AFP and/or PNP G2-intelligence to shake the trees for better info and to cordon off potential targets.

    Teamwork… but if there is a breakdown in the teamwork… what cha see is what cha get. Too bad.

  • UP nn grad

    CCTV does not prevent crimes as one would hope it would do. CCTV just increases the chance that a crime, once committed, can be solved, and faster.

    Just think about carnapping. The guy would point a gun at your face and you can see him — positive identification. CCTV or no CCTV, that dude would point a gun at your head to get the car keys.

    What CCTV can do is prevent the police from claiming to solve a crime when in fact they have done diddly-nothing. If the CCTV shows a husky-looking 5-7 dude throwing a pillbox and PNP brings in a suspect 5-foot-2 railthin squatter from Tondo…. maybe the lower courts would not allow themselves into being pressured by Malacanang to claim that a case has been solved.

    • Cocoy

      Exactly. Wow. we agree on this point.

  • UP nn grad

    Makati Mayor Binay just asked for more funds to hire more police. Makati has 1 policeman for every six-thousand citizens. Double the number of Makati policemen and you get 1 policeman for every 3,000 Pinoys-in-Makati. [ USA, EU ratio — one policeman for every 600 citizens.]

    Now, to get more policemen, Noynoy Administration has to raise taxes. Pity the fools.

  • GabbyD

    why will it burden civil liberties?

    its funny that you say it will burden civil liberties, but a few paragraphs later, you say “We also have to do it, in such a way as it is as invasive as possible. CCTV cameras a….”


    • Cocoy

      i find that CCTV cameras are non-invasive because of their passive nature. IMHO, the balance of the good it can do versus our privacy is an acceptable trade off.

      • GabbyD

        and a database is not passive? as i’m sure u know, a database is a list. i dont get it.

    • Cocoy

      Why will it burden civil liberties?

      It’s a database that government can mine to keep track of citizens.

      It’s a database that lets a thirdparty collate it for government. Stores, telcos will have the data before they hand over to government.

      that’s privacy issue right there.

      Also, how easy it is for someone to just steal a phone and use that for a terror assault as @archondigital noted on twitter earlier.

      • GabbyD

        in what sense will it “keep track”? a database is a list. i ought 2 have 2 pieces of info. your name, your address.

        this same info is in the possession of private businesses already. not to mention govt offices.

        whats the beef?