The implied indignation in Mike Elgan's post about the UK's audacity to require a passport to buy even a prepaid mobile phone shows that he's never tried to buy one as a foreigner in Japan. It was among the most annoying things I did when I lived there—you don't just need a passport (that would've been immensely easier), you also need your gaijin card—officially the gaikokujin torokusho—that takes at least a month to get (after you've gotten your visa settled), or at least the receipt showing you've applied for it, just to get a crappy prepaid phone.
After all that, you've gotta wait through a one-hour holding time. And I didn't even get to use my visa for a student discount. So the sad fact of the matter is that the UK is hardly exceptional in its attempt to track everyone who buys a mobile phone, and I expect it to increasingly be the case—don't be surprised when this particular aspect of Big Brother is imported stateside. After all, can't have no crim'nals or turrists running around with mobile phones, and a big database of everyone who legitimately buys one will totally cut off their access. [Times Online via The Raw Feed]