The Mexican Senate approved a controversial bill that would create a nationwide registry of cell phone users, which will be mandatory for all cell phone users, and contain each person’s biometric data.
Now the bill will be sent to the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, for signature and publication. Then it will become law.
The main objective of the reform, according to the bill, is to stop the crimes of extortion and kidnappings that, in many cases, are committed from prisons, through cell phones that enter clandestinely to prisons.
The register, according to the bill, “is a database with information on the individuals or legal entities that own each mobile telephone line that has numbers from the Fundamental Technical Numbering Plan.”
The register will contain 10 different data points: the mobile phone line number; the date and time of activation of the mobile phone line purchased with the SIM card; the full name of the owner, or where appropriate, the name or business name of the user; nationality; official identification number with photograph, and Unique Population Registry Code (CURP) of the line holder.
In addition, it will contain the biometric data of the user, or, where appropriate, of the legal representative of the business registering the cell phone; the user’s address; the data of the telecommunications company, or where appropriate, of the authorized ones; and the contact information for the mobile phone line, either postpaid or prepaid.
“Horror! Morena passes a law to force all Mexicans who have cell phones to hand over their biometric data: iris and personal fingerprints. They will traffic your data,” warned Senator Kenia López Rabadán, from the opposition PAN (National Action Party).
This biometric data that cell phone users will be forced to turn over to the Government includes; fingerprints of the users; the iris of his eyes, the features of his face (facial recognition data), voice recognition, the signature and the DNA. The Mexican Institute of Transparency explains that these data “are the physical, physiological, behavioral or personality traits, attributable to a single person and that are measurable.”
Opponents of the bill argue that criminals don’t use their own registered phones to commit crimes and that phone being brought into the prison system are done through corrupt prison employees and that fighting corruption in the system would be the optimal way to fight crime, not targeting innocent citizens by harvesting personal information. If a user’s cell phone is stolen and a crime is committed with the phone, the registered user could be held responsible. In addition, concerns with GPS and registered data will allow the government to track anyone in Mexico with a cell phone.
The approved bill empowers the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) to be the body in charge of installing, operating, regulating, and maintaining the registry, as well as ensuring its proper functioning and the exchange of information with the competent authorities.
Any hack of the registry could be dangerous to anyone recorded in the registry, putting millions of people at risk in Mexico.
- This story has been updated to correct the misstatement that the cell phone registry was for new cell users. All cell phone users will be required to register their biometric data with the federal government or their services will be terminated.