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China's Ministry of Industry and Information is ordering cell phone service subscribers to provide their real names when buying a telephone number. The measure is being implemented to stop spam and telecom fraud.
As of September 1st, new customers will have to register their identity card numbers or other valid documents when buying pre-paid SIM cards.
Also starting today, street newspaper stands in Beijing are banned from selling SIM cards.
People in other parts of China can still buy pre-paid cellphone cards from street newspaper stands. But personal ID's or other valid documents must be provided when doing so.
Subscribers who already bought pre-paid mobile phone SIM cards are encouraged but not obliged to register their information.
The policy is to protect subscribers from spam, pornographic messages and rampant fraud through the network.
Zhang Bin, Shijiazhuang policeman, said, "During our investigation, we sometimes fail to trace mobile numbers to the suspects because they bought SIM cards anonymously."
Telecom operators in China say they will follow the new rules. But when it comes to implementation, there are quite a few issues to consider.
One of the concerns is the safety of subscribers' personal information.
A mobile service user said, "If the real-name policy is to be implemented, the operators must then work out a stricter system to protect subscribers. I am afraid once my personal information is provided, it could be leaked, and abused."
Some also question the possibility of using fake ID's to buy mobile numbers. And that might lead to more safety issues.
It looks like to relevant authorities, operators and subscribers, the "real-name" subscription still has a long way to go.