Mobile phone users in China are now being asked to provide identification when they set up a new accounts as well eventually having to pass over ID for existing accounts, according to reports.
The new rules took effect on Wednesday and are applying to everyone buying a phone or SIM card, including foreigners and short-term visitors. The requirement has been adopted to curb rampant spam, porn, and telecom fraud, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said, according to Xinhuanet, the Web site of the official Chinese government news agency.
The move will also give the government, which has already been criticized for stomping out free speech by human rights groups, an even greater ability to monitor the citizens and their communications. According to the government telecom agency, there are around 800 million mobile subscriber accounts in China.
Mobile phone users who have registered already say that after doing so they received unsolicited marketing calls. Zhang Rui, a registered mobile phone user, told the Global Times, "I have received several phone calls from insurance and property companies who identified my name, age and working unit on the phone".
China isn't the only government trying to keep tabs on its citizens. India wants to be able to monitor communications of BlackBerry users and have threatened to shut down the service in the country. BlackBerry maker RIM averted the ban by offering some proposals and the Indian government is evaluating them.
And in the U.S., Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, have all proposed a bill that would require buyers of prepaid cell phones to show identification to help authorities track criminals and terrorists.
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