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    Update on Mexico’s cellphone registration database

    The Washington Post has an update on Mexico’s cellphone registration database and mobile phone owners’ protests — in the name of privacy and security — against the system. Recap: The Mexican legislature passed a law requiring the registry (including owners’ names, addresses and fingerprint data) in early 2009 and gave mobile phone companies one year to comply. Mexico believes a database of cellphone owners would prevent kidnappings and extortions. (Vietnam, Spain and Japan are also seeking to identify some types of cellphone users and create databases.)

    The Post reports that, “even under threat of service interruption, millions of Mexicans are refusing to submit their personal data, for a very Mexican reason: They don’t trust the government.”

    According to the Federal Telecommunications Commission, a separate entity, 68 million cellphones have been registered but 17 million remain unlisted.

    Because so many Mexicans declined to give their personal information, and because the data they did submit could not be authenticated, [José Adán Ignacio Rubí Salazar, a federal legislator and head of the communications commission in the Chamber of Deputies, said], “the mobile-phone registry is, from a security standpoint, completely useless.”

    Protesters “assume[] that any personal information they give the state would inexorably flow into the hands of the very criminals the new law seeks to foil, creating a kind of White Pages for crooks and kidnappers,” reports the Post.

    “As the government pushed citizens to register their phones, the newspaper El Universal sent a reporter out to the notorious black market bazaar in Mexico City known as Tepito and found that for $12,000 a person could buy the complete data set for every registered voter in Mexico — their names, addresses, dates of birth, driver’s license and social security numbers. The vendors said their best customers included organized crime and police agents.”

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