User registration prepaid cards in Switzerland

By EDRi · March 12, 2003

Telecom providers in Switzerland must register user data for prepaid cards and keep the data available for a period of 2 years. Parliament decided today to add this obligation to a series of new anti-terrorism measures. None of the EU member states have a similar obligation. Telecom providers have always argued against mandatory identification, pointing at the high costs for the extensive network of resellers and the probability of people helping out criminals by buying prepaid cards for them.

The large support for the new measure seems to stem from the discovery that at least 1 Al Qaeda member used a Swiss prepaid card. Switzerland used to be one of the few countries worldwide to sell prepaid cards for international roaming. The new measure doesn’t just require identification for those specific roaming-cards, but for all users of all prepaid cards. In her defence of the measure, the Swiss justice minister Ruth Metzler produced some statistics about telecommunications interception in Switzerland. Last year, law enforcement authorities made 80.000 requests for the identity of telephone users, resulting in 6.000 court-approved wiretaps. Of the 80.000 identity-requests, 30.000 were prepaid mobile phones.

Debate in Swiss parliament about anti-terrorism measures (12.03.2003)