Citing an effort to combat crime rates, Mexico’s federal Senate has approved a new bill that would create a national registry of mobile phone users containing a plethora of personal information including the biometric data of each individual.
Proponents of the bill — which has garnered the support of the majority of the ruling party senators and now only needs to be signed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to become law — cite the use of unregistered cell phones by criminals to commit various crimes including kidnapping and extortion.
When it is passed, the new law will require the mandatory registration of any new SIM card or prepaid mobile phone line purchases. Failure to comply to the new law will carry a fine of roughly 90,000 pesos (about US $4,500).
According to the bill, the registry itself will be “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,” and will contain several different data points including the name, phone number, and address associated with the owner of the SIM card or phone line, as well as their biometric data which could include fingerprint, face, voice, or iris biometrics.
Aside from arguing that instead of being deterred by the new law, criminals will instead continue to use mobile phones they have acquired illegally and thus won’t risk exposing their own biometric data, critics are also vocally opposed to the alleged constitutional and privacy violations the new bill represents.
Though the bill does state that the new registry and the information contained within it will be confidential, and that an individual’s personal information will be subject to protection under existing federal data protection laws, concerns have surfaced over the fact that the laws in question are not explicitly applicable to biometric data.
President López Obrado argued in defense of the new bill, saying its purpose is simply to “look after” mobile phone users, and that the Mexican Government is “never going to carry out actions of espionage against anyone.”
“This is for the safety of the people, it’s not selling peanuts,” the President told reporters. “It’s selling a [SIM] card to have communication and which can be used for extortion, kidnapping [or] to commit crimes… It’s completely a matter of security for the protection of Mexicans.”