“Burner” Cell Phone Resolution to be considered by Cook County Board Committee on Legislation and Inter-governmental affairs

Statement of ACLU of Illinois Executive Director Colleen K. Connell

Tomorrow, the Cook County Board Committee on Legislation and Inter-governmental affairs is scheduled to consider a non-binding resolution urging the Illinois General Assembly and the Congress of the United States to adopt legislation that would require anyone purchasing a pre-paid cell phone to present a photo identification card that would be copied and stored.  The resolution links the use of such pre-paid cell phones to human trafficking and sexual abuse.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois abhors human trafficking and sexual abuse, and we have supported a number of measures by federal, state and local government officials to interdict and prosecute individuals who maliciously and callously traffic in human life.

We cannot, however, support this resolution. In an effort to curb human trafficking, the resolution urges legislators at the federal and state level to ignore the right of law-abiding individuals in our society to speak anonymously – a right guaranteed under our Constitution’s First Amendment. Anonymous speech has played a critical role in our history. Indeed, the Federalist Papers were written anonymously.

There are myriad reasons for an individual to speak anonymously via a phone, something that is technologically possible by using a pre-paid phone.  These valid reasons should not – and must not – be ignored in a rush to address a societal harm.

We urge the Committee to reject this resolution.