130.000 prepaid GSMs disconnected in Switzerland

By EDRi · December 15, 2004

On 30 November 2004 the Swiss mobile operator Swisscom has disconnected aproximately 130.000 unregistered users of prepaid mobile phones. On 23 June 2004 a new measure was adopted by the Swiss Bundesrat (Council of ministers) that required the operators (besides Swisscom also Orange and Sunrise) to start registering the personal details of all buyers, including ID-number, and store these personal data for 2 years. By the end of October 2004 the details of all customers that had bought prepaid phones since 1 November 2002 had to be registered.

The law was introduced as a measure against terrorism and international drug trafficking, after it became public that some al-Qaeda militants had used Swiss prepaid phones to communicate with each other. It is not evident that registration will prevent such use in the future, or prevent any other kind of criminals from contacting each other. People determined to hide from police investigations can always present false identity papers or use foreign Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards.

Obviously, the mobile operators didn’t succeed in reaching everybody in time. According to the Federal Statistics Office, there were almost 2.6 million users of prepaid phones in Switzerland by the end of 2003. The operators could only reach their customers by sending a text message, but the operators complained many mobile phone users don’t read text messages, or have their phones switched off for long periods.

A similar proposal was made in Poland, in June 2004, by the Polish Ministry of Infrastructure, but Parliament did not approve of it. The Polish
Telecommunication Act was enacted at 16 July 2004 and went into force early in September 2004, without any obligation to register users of prepaid phones or identify current users.

130.000 Prepaid-Handys abgeschaltet (02.12.2004)

Changes in the Swiss wiretapping law, VÜPF (23.06.2004)

EDRI-gram 2.11, Polish proposal to demand ID for pre-paid cards (02.06.2004)

(Thanks to q/depesche, EDRI-member quintessenz and Piotr Waglowski, ISOC Poland)