Mexico has passed a law due to be enforced in April which will have mobile phone companies building a database of their clients, complete with fingerprints. The move is a bid to fight kidnapping and extortion, usually made over prepaid mobile phones. People will now be fingerprinted when the get a new 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” reports Reuters.
People will have to report their phones lost or loaned immediately to avoid being held responsible for a handset used in a crime. It’s a pretty egregious breach of privacy, but kidnapping is a big issue in Mexico — to the extent that the “Green” party is running on a platform of introducing the death penalty for kidnapping. The carriers aren’t overjoyed, with the head of Telefonica (NYSE: TEF) saying it will only create more bureaucracy for operators, and Carlos Slim, owner of America Movil, saying that the law would be more useful if it tracked the movements of mobile phone users — in effect calling for more information to be kept. GPS-enabled handsets are relatively rare in Mexico, so such a rule would require the encouragement of GPS handsets in some way.