In a bid to prevent kidnappings and extortions, Mexico will create a national database of the fingerprints of mobile phone owners, Reuters reports. (We noted the Mexican legislature’s debate about this last month.) Attempts to broadly gather cell phone user data are not new. In July, reports revealed an agreement among Japanese mobile phone providers and the government for sharing data on cell phone users. People applying for mobile phone contracts will have their identification confirmed by the police. “If a customer refuses to submit to the policy inquiry, firms will decline a contract, and will contact police if they become suspicious about a customer,” reported the Daily Yomiuri.
In October, there was a scandal when the Times UK revealed a massive surveillance plan by the British government to create a national database of mobile phone users. The plan was to require people to present a passport or other official form of identification when they bought their cell phones.
Reuters reports that under the new Mexican law:
[M]obile phone companies will have a year to build up a database of their clients, complete with fingerprints. The idea would be to match calls and messages to the phones’ owners. […]
Most of Mexico’s 80 million mobile phones are prepaid handsets with a given number of minutes of use that can be bought in stores without any identification. The phones can be topped up with more minutes via vendors on street corners.
The register, detailed in the government’s official gazette, means new subscribers will now be fingerprinted when they buy a handset or phone contract.
The plan also requires operators to store all cell phone information such as call logs, text and voice messages, for one year. Information on users and calls will remain private and only available with court approval to track down criminals.