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    Update on Mexico’s fingerprint registry of cellphone owners

    The Los Angeles Times has an update on a registry of the fingerprints of mobile phone owners in Mexico. The Mexican legislature passed a law requiring the registry in early 2009 and gave mobile phone companies one year to comply. Mexico believes a database of cellphone owners and their fingerprints would prevent kidnappings and extortions. (Vietnam, Spain and Japan are also seeking to identify some types of cellphone users and create databases.) The L.A. Times reports:

    Mexico’s federal government went ahead over the weekend with a plan to disconnect cellphone lines whose users did not submit their identities to a national registry by midnight Saturday, a move intended to strike a blow to organized crime. About 69% of the 83.5 million cellphone lines in Mexico had been registered, La Jornada reported. But by Sunday, 25.9 million cellphone lines not registered in time were in the process of being cut off. […]

    Confusion reigned among many over how to complete the process to register their lines. The registration system, known as RENAUT, was swamped by last-minute users. And one provider, Movistar, threatened to ignore the government’s order to disconnect lines, saying telecommunications were a “constitutional right.” […]

    “The disconnection of 31% of cellular telephone lines in the country represents an unprecedented act … in the history of telecommunications and in commercial contracts between individual parties,” said La Jornada in its Sunday coverage. […]

    To register, users had to provide their CURP number, similar in some uses to a Social Security number in the United States. But many Mexicans said they did not have a CURP or know their number. On some social-media sites, others admitted to unlawfully using someone else’s CURP — in some cases, that of a dead person — to register. In apparent protest of the registration law, an estimated 12,000 cellphone lines were reportedly submitted to the registry under the name Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s president.

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