The problem with criminals and terrorists is that they are scary. The odds of someone being killed by a terrorist in the United States are so exponentially low that you are sooner to die by shark attack than by terrorist, but the fear still remains equivalent. Chance occurrence dominates the emotional side of our brains and criminals and terrorists thrive on this instinct. Using fear wildly is usually how a criminal or terrorist is tracked down and caught. When anonymity is included, the result is a dangerous combination that has caught the attention of the highest level of law enforcement. The fight to break encryption may be a well intentioned attempt to stop these types of criminals, but the fact of the matter is that burner phones and anonymous communication has and will always exist. Consider it a Pandora’s Box situation where once the technology has been created, there is no stopping it from being used.
Do Terrorists really use Burner Phones?
Absolutely. It was found that the terrorist bombings in Paris had been conducted with the use of burner phones. Suspects in San Bernardino, California had destroyed their normal cell phones which would indicate a lack of burner phone use and more importantly, a traceable route to personal information. Criminals of all shapes and sizes use and don’t use burner phones. Police are quick to assume that suspects use burner phones if no traceable information comes back from a cell phone ping. Odds are that any vital information will go through a cell phone at one point or time when terrorists communicate, and this is why the Government is interested in intercepting this information.
Why are Burner Phones so easy to obtain?
The technology and idea behind a burner phone is not nefarious. Our country’s forefathers would wholeheartedly endorse the use and creation of burner phones. The legalities surrounding the purchase of low cost cell phones requiring no personal information to activate are well established. Individuals have a right to communicate and bringing the affordability of cell phones down, the appearance of burner phones rose.
Is it against the law to own a Burner Phone?
No, it is not against the law to own a burner phone because burner phones are a useful tool for businesses and individuals alike. Having secure, private communication is a right granted to citizens by the Constitution. This right does not extend to telecommunications and has long been established to be legally upheld with changing technology. As computers continue to push the boundaries of communication, so too will the lawmakers push to monitor and control those lines of communication.
Burner phones exist because there is a need for private, anonymous communication, and when used properly, burner phones have a high rate of success. Unfortunately, when tools have a high rate of success, criminals will take advantage. Burner phones just happen to be useful and available. Only time will tell what legislation Congress cooks up to combat burner phones use in criminal’s hands, but in the meantime, buying a burner phone has never been easier.