Mobile Phones Will No Longer Be Anonymous in Armenia

All mobile operators in Armenia will have to sign written contracts with their mobile subscribers after a decision made by the Committee for Regulating Public Services on 30th March, 2007. By imposing this measure the Committee hopes to stop the practice of providing mobile connectivity to anonymous customers, which is described as an antiterrorism initiative by the government. The existing mobile customers of Easy, Go and Alo anonymous mobile services will be forced to sign contracts under the threat of disconnecting their accounts. Via Armenian News Blog

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. Well, I don’t know about anti-terrorism measures, but at least there will now be a legally binding contract between a service provider and the client just as it is in most countries, including Georgia. As it is, the requirements of Viva Cell’s Alo card if you don’t use it as many times as they think you should are quite ridiculous and in my opinion, not the way a business should operate in any country.
    I know people are saying this is so the NSS can listen in on calls and track people, but I don’t not believe they couldn’t do this anyway. Still, at least we’ll now get some idea of the real number of mobile phone users in Armenia rather than how many mobile cards might be out there. Anyway, yes, it will probably raise some confidentiality issues, but I think most countries would have any provision of services dictated by a legal contract.
    Still, people got spooked by social security cards, including those who genuinely believed that microchips would later be placed in people’s heads, so perhaps the way the rest of the world operates isn’t yet applicable to Armenia.

  2. Just wanted to write about it. πŸ™‚ Gonna buy couple of easycards till 1 of july – for security reasons ;)))
    * are you back to yerevan ? to all appearances you should πŸ˜‰

  3. regarding anti-terrorism stuff: there are 4 Turkish mobile networks around in Armenian territory, so anybody wanting anonymity could use those without any problems, so that’s bull.!
    regarding buying a couple of easy cards: they will force all anonymous subscribers go sign contracts under the threat of disconnecting their numbers, so its not going to help.
    PS: yeah – I’m back alright, my luggage is not yet, however… πŸ™ London Hethrow is indeed world’s busiest airport, with all the negative consequences for my luggage πŸ˜‰

  4. Turkish close to the border no doubt. Same with Azerbaijani and Georgian phones there as well, but one guesses you’d have to sign a contract with them, though. For example, I just bought a pay as you go MagtiCom card in Tbilisi last month for when I’m there, and no surprise, you had to sign a contract.
    I have to be honest and say I was impressed that contracts were being issued as they were in the West. Although I was only last in my native U.K. in December 2005 I remember asking if it was possible to buy a pay as you go card for using my phone there, and nobody had heard of one. Maybe there is one, but I suspect that such things are normal where company-consumer services should be dictated by some kind of legally binding agreement.
    On that basis, I see nothing wrong or suspicious in introducing such a requirement in Armenia and this sounds like paranoia to me. On the other hand, the Armenian Government has so far proven adept at introducing things that are common to Europe and using them for less than democratic objectives. So, I suppose that this change is nothing strange and can be considered normal.
    Most countries WOULDN’T have mobile phone SIMs available without any contracts signed. It seems abnormal to me, and at the very least totally makes it impossible to get a true picture of mobile phone use here. On the other hand, it would be better if the security services and police had to apply to court to place a tap on a phone, and that the courts were independent and only guided by the evidence.
    Anyway, some would argue that a wire tap isn’t really necessary in Armenia as there are believed to be informers in every international organization, political party, NGO and movement. Besides, there’s almost nothing secret in Armenia and those with something “sensitive” to say would never say it on the phone anyway. That’s just dumb coz they can pick it up if they really want, contract or no contract.

  5. Incidentally, I meant pay as you go cards in the UK WITHOUT having to sign a contract. Still, I haven’t been in the U.K. for ages, so you guys, especially Observer, should know more about whether it’s possible to get a pay as you go card without signing a contract.
    Whichever way it goes, as they say, if you’re not up to anything suspicious, it shouldn’t concern you, and if you are, you’d not be talking openly on the phone anyway, contract or no contract. In the U.K., for example, the GCHQ monitors all telephone calls for buzzwords which might indicate something of interest to the security services.
    Doubt the level of sophistication is here yet, but anyone with anything sensitive to say really shouldn’t be using their cellphones to do it anyway. You never know when you’re going to be picked up. Same with email, btw, and not least because I wouldn’t trust any of the local internet companies here to respect or protect my right to privacy.
    BTW: Someone told me belonged to the Justice Minister. Does anyone know if this is true?

  6. Ok, so had a look at the pay as you go options on the U.K.’s Car Phone Warehouse, and out of 10 services available, 2 don’t state they don’t require a contract.
    Even so, without a contract now, I never say anything on a phone — mobile or otherwise — that I wouldn’t want eavesdropped on.
    Complacency is always a bad mistake, and it’s a lesson perhaps many journalists, political figures and activists should learn.
    Indeed, they should all consider that they might already be being listed to, especially in a country like Armenia.

  7. sorry, correction:
    “2 state they don’t require a contract”

  8. Onnik, I had a Caphone Warehouse mobile phone in the UK – they don’t require a contract, but they ask for your name/address info and record it before they give you the phone number.
    As to – it belongs to the brother of Justice Minister – I have spoken about his on your blog and I’m ready to confirm. I don’t have name, etc. details, but I can find out real easy. When I do I’ll publish those details here.

  9. Actually, on thinking about this situation again re. contracts in Armenia, while I do think that there should be contracts for a whole number of reasons, I think it shouldn’t be backdated. That is, all new customers should sign contracts and not existing ones. I wonder if there’s any legal blurb on the Alo cards when you buy them stating that terms and conditions are subject to change and so on. If not, existing customers — or a body representing them — might be able to appeal to the courts (Yes, I know, the courts are not independent, but anyway).
    Anyway, even without a contract which only stipulates the legal terms, conditions and obligations of both provider and consumer, it looks as though such information as to who you are is necessary in most — if not all European countries. As I said, people with sensitive or confidential things to say shouldn’t say it on the phone anyway. On that, and VivaCell specifically, do we really know who owns it? Some people say it really belongs to Kocharian’s son. Does anyone know?

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