By George Psyllides
Legislation making it compulsory for users of prepaid phone cards to provide identification as a means of reducing crime, is expected to be put to the vote in two weeks after several years’ delay, it emerged on Thursday.
The bill, tabled by DIKO, requires users to provide their identity when the cards are activated. The move aims at curbing crime by eliminating anonymity. Current users of prepaid cards will be given time to register. Not doing so would mean deactivation of their number.
Main opposition AKEL expressed opposition to the proposal, suggesting it would turn Cyprus into a police state.
Personal data commissioner Yiannis Danielides said it would violate the principle of proportionality.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou expressed satisfaction, reiterating that it was a necessary change to enable law enforcement to investigate criminal actions hiding behind the anonymity of prepaid cards.
Nicolaou said he respected the commissioner’s view but he must also weigh the gravity of the objectives the state wanted to achieve.
AKEL MP Andreas Fakontis said the aim would not be achieved. The proposal he said would lead to a police state and a big brother who would monitor every move.
Out of 28 countries in the EU, only nine had similar legislation, the MP said, and anyone wanting to acquire such cards could do so there, or via the Turkish-occupied north.
It would also lead to a loss of revenue for mobile telephony providers as many people and tourists would not bother to register.
The issue came to the fore after the office of a company belonging to the chairman of the Cyprus Football Association Costas Koutsokoumnis was bombed in November 2009.
According to Koutsokoumnis he had received a threatening call the day before but he did not report it to police as they had been unable to do anything about it on previous occasions.
Police, who want the law changed to oblige users to supply their identities, said it was impossible to track down perpetrators under the circumstances.
Two main mobile telephony providers, CyTA and MTN, raised objections in the past citing loss of business.
CyTA claimed at the time that it would lose €10m while MTN said its turnover would be halved.