Estonian interior ministry wants ban on non-personalized pre-paid SIM cards

Veiko Kommusaar.
Veiko Kommusaar. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Estonian Ministry of the Interior will soon submit a draft bill for approval, which would ban the use of non-personalized pre-paid SIM cards.

Veiko Kommusaar, undersecretary for internal security at the Ministry of the Interior, said in an interview with Vikerraadio, that the draft bill for the personalization of pre-paid SIM cards had been prepared at the ministry some time ago and will be sent for approval in the near future.

"The issue with SIM cards is not that we want to take SIM cards away from someone. SIM cards are perfectly free for everyone to keep using. The issue is that the name of the person who owns the pre-paid SIM card should be connected to it."

During criminal proceedings and with the permission of the courts, the police are able to listen to people's phone calls or, afterward, request their call records. However, the work of law enforcement agencies is made difficult by potential criminals using non-personalized pre-paid SIM cards and changing phones frequently. This makes it more difficult to track them down.

Kommusaar said, that a large proportion of fraudulent calls are made using these types of non-personalized cards.

"We are providing the tools ourselves, [which is being used] to deceive our people," said Kommusaar. On the other hand, he said, the expectation is placed on the state to seek out the people who are using these tools to commit crimes.

Under the proposed new system, anyone would still be able to buy a pre-paid SIM card, however, it would not begin working until the person provided their details when signing up.

"If I buy a pre-paid SIM card, then in order to activate it, I have to activate myself on the website of the service provider, and then we know that there is a person behind the number. In the context of the European Union, this is nothing unique. We are one of the few countries that have non-personalized pre-paid SIM cards."

The idea was last proposed by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications three years ago. At the time, it sparked a lively debate, with some arguing that the change would intrude too much on people's privacy, while others said it was necessary in order to fight crime. In the end, the government, which comprised EKRE, Isamaa and the Center Party, shelved the idea, saying that further analysis was required.

"Of course, in order to bring about this kind of change in society, you also need the political will. The Government has outlined this task in its work plan."


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Editor: Michael Cole

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