Lavly Perling: Freedom cannot be mocked

Lavly Perling.
Lavly Perling. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Restricting or banning non-personalized cellphone Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards, which can be purchased in Estonia at kiosks and other points of sale, will not curb crime, but would instead strip away an important part of people's privacy, Lavly Perling, leader of political party Parempoolsed and a former prosecutor general, writes.

Crimes which require making a phone call or an SMS will not peter out if non-personalized SIM cards are banned. Savvy criminals have already been using other tech and the dark web, rather than SIM cards or disposable "burner" 'phones.

It is true that a ban would probably make the lives of law enforcement agencies easier with regard to individual proceedings, but there again would it not be the case that stabbings could be reduced by banning all types of knives? 

However, this is not a solution in a free society. It is puzzling why the law in question is being reached at right now, even as the idea of ​​banning non-personalized SIM cards has been around for many years now; it must be admitted that while at one time a ban might have had some impact, but in the context of today's technology, it no longer does. 

Apparently, the officials realized that this is a government that is happy to limit people's freedoms, so this old proposal was simply taken out of the drawer.

However, the issue is not about SIM cards, but instead about freedom and people's privacy, their perceived right to be left alone or to take it as a given that they have the right to assume that they alone have access to certain information.  Once this privacy is taken away, a slice of freedom is taken away. 

Statements such as who needs these cards besides criminals, or what do people have to hide, are arrogant and far-fetched. Here are four simple life examples. 

1) A public figure uses a non-personalized SIM card for their recycling deals. Why? Simply because they doesn't want to share their phone number widely, they can maintain their privacy while at the heart of things still being a green-thinking, enterprising and honest person.

2) A business manager, uses a non-personalized SIM card to talk to his psychiatrist. Why? He or she simply does not want to share this sensitive topic with his or her family or colleagues.

3) A mother who is the victim of domestic violence calls her support person and the shelter, using that phone. There is probably no need to explain the reasons.

4) Some people use a non-personalized SIM card to talk to a person with whom they are in a relationship, but do not want to make that relationship public.

Whereas there is no need to ask all these "why" questions at all, because these people should be free to make their decisions, without having to explain anything to anyone. This is the way life goes in a free country.

These people have fallen silent today, precisely because none of them want to state out loud that they have a need to talk to their psychiatrist, psychologist, support person, loved one or shelter, all while using a non-personalized Sim.

The argument relating to the fight against crime is inappropriate in the light of the principle of proportionality when it comes to state intervention. By what authority will these people have their freedom taken away from them, and upon what basis can anyone treat these freedoms so arrogantly or cynically?

Freedom, as a value, always deserves protection, and can only be limited if the freedom of many other people requires it. 

In this case, there is nothing along those lines, and both freedom as a value concept, and actual people who have the right to privacy in today's X, deserve more protection. At the same time, freedom and the degree of privacy are not simply theoretical categories for these people; behind this freedom lies their well-being, their mental health, their entrepreneurial spirit, and their ability to manage themselves and their lives.

In summing up, the only solution to protect people and to respect personal freedom is to take the idea of ​​banning non-personalized SIM cards straight out of the drawer throw it into the trash. Any minister who allows the administration to present ideas about restricting freedoms so lightly should think about whether he is still in the right job.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Urmet Kook

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