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UK child protection charities yesterday called for the mandatory registration of pre-paid mobile phones amid concern that paedophiles could use untraceable mobiles to access the Web.

The Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety (CHIS), a group of seven leading UK charities, wants to extend the safeguards that apply to establishing an Internet account to mobile phones. They want service providers to compile a register so that paedophiles are not able to shelter under the cloak of anonymity in accessing chatrooms or to visit illicit Web sites.

"Mobile operators are going to have to change their policy with regard to pre-paid phones," Jon Carr, Internet Director of children's charity NCH, told the FT.

ISPs know the phone number of users using fixed-line accounts via "caller line identification" checks that take place when an account is registered. There are practices in place to hand over this information to police during criminal investigations, allowing investigators to trace the address of suspects.

Carr wants to see a similar system applied to mobile phones. However the move is not without its difficulties, the FT reports.

First, all unregistered mobile users would have to submit their details with operators. But so far, pre-paid users have avoiding giving out their names and addresses, even when offered rewards like free airtime.

John Conlon, head of adult services at Virgin Mobile, told the FT: "We encourage registration in out joining packs but some people with pre-paid phones like the anonymity and the fact that you do not have to go through credit checks."

CHIS' proposals on the mandatory registration of pre-paid mobile phones are an extension of its manifesto about self-regulation of new content on mobiles, published last month, and available from the NCH Web site here. ®

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