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Biometric privacy preferences in Mexico strained by crime-fighting campaign

iphone in use

In an effort to crack down on an ongoing epidemic of kidnappings in Mexico, that nation’s congress approved the gathering and storing of mobile phone owners’ biometric identifiers.

The aim is to tie a person to a telephoned extortion threat or other crimes that can be associated with a phone account.

The legislation is not law yet, but when finalized, it would require telecommunication companies to collect fingerprint biometrics and eye scans from every owner of a phone. Consumer nationality, home address, name, also would be collected, as well as date and time of SIM card activation and Population Registration Key (CURP) number.

Only 17 other countries in the world require some type of biometric identification for the purchase of a SIM card.

The national biometric registry would be managed by the federal government’s independent telecom regulator, the Federal Telecommunications Institute, or IFT.

Senators voted 54 in favor and 49 against with 10 abstentions. Mexico’s lower house of congress had previously approved the bill.

The ink is not yet dry on the senate bill, as members are still debating changes before passing it to the president for a signature.

April 12, the Senate’s transportation and communications commission signed off on the matter with an 8-6 vote.

The tallies were relatively narrow, indicating public ambivalence about giving telecommunications companies their biometric data and having it handed to the government.

According to figures quoted in a Privacy International report, there might be room to worry.

More than 145,000 requests for customer information were made to telecom firms from 2016 to 2017, according to Privacy International.

Ninety-four percent of the requests were granted, “even when 30% of the requests were made by unidentified authorities or authorities that do not have a legal right to access user data.”

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