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Supreme court in Mexico halts new cell phone registry

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
A 2020 report found that Mexico has almost as many active cell phone lines as it has people. Photo: Courtesy

Mexico’s supreme court has slammed the brakes on the federal government’s plan to create a compulsory national cell phone registry.

Besides personal identifiers such as names and addresses, the database was to include biometric data such as fingerprints.

Since it was first announced, opposition to the registry was intense by both lawmakers and privacy advocates.

“We all want to fight crime and corruption, but we can’t do it at the expense of citizens’ rights,” said Congresswoman Martha Tagle.

The rebuff comes as a defeat for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who had heralded the registry as an important step forward in combating crimes such as telephone fraud and extortion.

Earlier: Starlink: A ‘game-changer’ for a connected life in rural Mexico?

The court noted that aside from privacy concerns, it was not convinced that the federal government had proven that it had the ability to maintain such a database in a way that guaranteed security. 

Another often cited concern that came up several times was that the federal government may use the data it collects for financial, political, or electoral motives.

As it turns out, this concern is not unfounded. During the presidency of Felipe Calderon, a similar move was attempted. But the database was discontinued after it was discovered that the personal data of citizens was being sold to third parties.

Cell phones and SIM cards are extremely cheap and easy to purchase in Mexico. In 2020 it was reported that there existed nearly 116 million active cell phone lines in the country, a number almost as large as Mexico’s total population of 128.9 million.

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