Failed institutions incite fear of Mexico’s biometric national ID plan
Centralized biometric databases held by untrusted governments that have not passed robust data protection laws continue to elicit criticism and fear.
One of the latest examples comes from Rest of World, which interviews digital rights activist Luis Fernando García about his fears that Mexico’s national digital ID system is the latest step in a colonial population-control scheme.
García compares Mexico’s mandatory national ID program, the CUID, to those of India, Uganda and Kenya. He also tells the publication that “sophisticated intelligence agencies in rich countries” are supporting the program, without reference to a specific agency, country, or program.
“They have offensive capabilities that allow them to attack, obtain, and collect information that less-developed countries create through these databases,” he alleges.
Their motivation for siphoning off as much data as possible from the Global South, according to García, is the money that can be made from the data. The World Bank, on this interpretation, is acting as a bag-man for the repressive colonial powers.
García notes that the World Bank is not funding national digital ID programs in Northern Hemisphere countries that do not have them, like the U.S., Canada, and Germany. He does not mention that an estimated 10 to 20 percent of Canadians are unbanked or ‘underbanked,’ compared to roughly 60 percent in Mexico.
Many people are willing to accept universal surveillance, García says, in return for the promise of reduced corruption and crime. In discussing this fear, the roots of García’s worries becomes clear.
“For decades now, the Mexican government has increased their legal powers and technological capabilities to do interception of communications, to access communications metadata, to do location tracking in real time, and to access financial information,” the activist recounts. “It’s not the lack of technology or legal powers or available data, which the government either has or can obtain legally. That’s not the issue. It’s the fact that there is widespread corruption and collusion with organized crime by the authorities that are supposed to investigate and prosecute them.”
In other words, the promise of reduced corruption is dependent on the actions of corrupted entities.
Mexico has a data protection law on the books, but it does not apply to the public sector.