This kind of thing is what really drives me nuts.
“Mobiles are believed to have been used by the 7/7 bombers as timers in their rucksack bombs” – well, if you want to use them as timers you can buy them second hand from a car boot sale, you don’t need a network.
I would like to know what is being done about shoes. All the London terrorists wore shoes, and without shoes they would probably not have been anything like as effective. Yet one can walk into a shop in any town in Britain, and buy a pair of shoes, cash down; no ID, no questions. Don’t these people realise we’re AT WAR???
In the same way that stuff which appears in the newspapers a lot is stuff which is newsworthy, and therefore rare, human rights which get a lot of publicity are those which are argued about, and therefore marginal. The really really basic human rights, like the right to buy a pair of shoes or a telephone without being required by the government to register yourself as the owner, are so obvious that we don’t even think about them as human rights, which is a shame, because we let government get away with taking them away far more readily than we do the marginal cases.
The other element here is a kind of “aquis communitaire” of police powers. As an implementation detail of the telecoms industry, there used to be a practical necessity to provide a name and address to get use of a telephone. With the technological innovation of call rating on the switch, pay as you go became possible and therefore anonymous access to telephones. (I recall with embarrassment that when I went to a meeting with Ericsson sales-people pushing this new technology, I didn’t see what the big deal was). The police, having got used to the convenience of access to telephone records, feel that some obvious, essential police tool (which in fact would never have been given to them in the first place except by accident) has been taken away from them, and that the law must be changed to give it back. Again, because people are used to the idea that police can find out who made a phone call, they are more sympathetic to it than they would be out of the blue.
There is an obvious parallel to the attitude of copyright owners.