Freedom of information agency challenges biometric data registry

It says a new law violates privacy rights and will challenge it before the Supreme Court

The national transparency and data protection body Inai is challenging a new law that requires telecoms companies to gather users’ biometric data, and will argue before the Supreme Court that it violates privacy rights and is unconstitutional.

The law, which passed on April 13, aims to reduce crimes like extortion and kidnapping by making it more difficult for criminals to remain anonymous when purchasing new mobile phones.

Telecoms companies are now required to collect customers’ fingerprints or eye data for a national database, which would then be available for use in criminal investigations.

Last week, a judge stopped part of the law from taking effect, saying it would put customers at risk if they refuse to share personal data because their cellphone connection would be cut. The parts of the law stipulating the creation of the registry remain in effect.

The Mexico Internet Association has said the registry would violate human rights and cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars to implement.

“The prosecution of crimes is an issue that should concern us all and the state is responsible for ensuring the safety of the inhabitants, but this cannot and should not be a sufficient reason to restrict freedoms and human rights,” said Adrián Alcalá Méndez, an Inai commissioner.

President López Obrador, no admirer of autonomous bodies such as Inai, criticized the action, framing it as a move by telecoms companies against regulation in their industry rather than a defense of individual rights.

“These telecoms companies that are very powerful … are bringing a campaign before autonomous agencies and judges. We have to review this because if not the state is going to keep serving a rapacious minority,” he said.

“They are also very hypocritical because for a phone contract they ask for the same data,” he added.

Contrary to what the president said, biometric data has not been required in the past.

While 155 countries around the world maintain cellphone user registries, only about 8% require biometric data, mainly for prepaid SIM card users, according to global telecoms industry lobby GSMA.

Sources: Reuters, Milenio (sp)

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