back to article Mexican phone firms to fingerprint new customers

Buying a mobile phone in Mexico will soon be a biometric affair. The country’s set to introduce a law requiring all new phone buyers to be fingerprinted. The law, according to a report by Reuters, comes into force this April and has been designed as a way of matching calls and text messages to the specific owner of a specific …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ..what about tourists, PAYG sim cards and phones from across the border?

  2. Stuart Elliott

    So, they kidnap and murder..

    but they don't steal other peoples mobile phones?

  3. Erik Aamot

    if ...

    if the prisons weren't run by corrupt officials, the prisoners wouldn't have mobile phones

    if the businesses, including cell phone retailers and distributors weren't corrupt and in many cases backed with criminal funds .. well .. I can't imagine criminals having any problem getting cell phones 'illegally'

    if anything, such a law would be used by criminal organisations and the police they pay off to jail those that oppose them

  4. Daniel B.
    Thumb Down

    Slow Reuters.

    Geeze, Reuters seems to be a bit slow on this news. The law got approved months ago.

    It is also retarded; the second-hand phone business is larger than the "new phone" one; common users can't be arsed with registering their cellphones, let alone fingerprinting them!

    This will lead to either a gigantic DB that will be out of date pretty fast, or mobile users simply giving up on their cellphones. This will only increase mugging for mobiles, as robbed cellphones are rarely reported.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not going to work.

    Like everything in Mexico, there are a couple of things stopping that will stop this law from having any effect on the rate of crime.

    Firstly, is that you will be allowed to use SIMS that have been purchased prior to the implementation of this law for a period of upto two years; this means that you'll be able buy a SIM card from a kiosk for 100MXN and it'll have 100MXN credit, and then you'll need to register it at a later time.

    Secondly, unless VOIP outfits like Skype also collect call records and fingerprints there will be a shift from using these phones in prisons to using these phones to connect to the 3G network and then make VOIP calls, which will be much harder to track.

    Finally, there's the privacy issues inherent in storing large numbers of fingerprints, and the risk that the federal police will trawl through the database linking fingerprints found in any crime scene with the phone of the person. Then it's just a matter of giving Telcel a quick call and if their phone is on, you have an approximate location.

    Mexicans aren't more concerned about this because the fear of kidnappings is quite real, as is the actual occurrence of kidnappings, and anything that has the perception of reducing these crimes is looked upon positively. (As an aside, there is a new party that wants to introduce the death penalty, but only for kidnappers and murderers.) The other reason is that Mexicans as a population are fingerprinted from birth. To obtain a passport before the age of three you need to provide a fingerprint. To obtain a voting ID, you need to provide a fingerprint, and of course if you want to travel to the US you need to obtain a visa, which means you need to provide a fingerprint.

    Unfortunately, it's unlikely this law will make any difference in the level of crime, because the criminals will be able to work around the system. What it will allow is more prevalent tracking of individuals that are of interest to the government, and invasion of privacy by companies. (Most Mexicans will remember that the whole voting registration system, with all registered voters fingerprints, was sold to a US company a number of years ago by a government employee.)

    Before anyone asks why kidnappers don't just hide their caller ID, it's not an option in Mexico. The only company that does this is Nextel, and I imagine they'll disable this feature if they don't want to be tagged the "kidnapper's network". A much more useful solution would have been to install cellphone jamming technology in prisons, but that's too easy.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Has it ever occured to the authorities

    That they are dealing with kidnap gangs who often remove fingers !

    Thumbs up as I'm just checking I've still got mine.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Caller ID blocking in Mexico

    Nextel isn't the only one: Movistar mobiles can enable the "Block Caller ID" option as well. Yet another reason to hate those damned Spaniards!

    And as the previous AC said, most Mexicans don't care about the implications, as anything done in the name of "preventing kidnappings" is seen as good. The whole reinstatement of death penalty for kidnappers and murderers caught momentum after some kidnappers killed a child by injecting acid into his heart when the parents called the cops. So naturally, public sentiment favors anything that can bring these cold-blooded killers to justice.

    Me? I think the "best" solution, in any case, would be for citizens to go all Paul Kersey against kidnappers. The local, state and federal cops have lost the nerve to actually do something about this (or are even willful participants in K&R); sadly the only effective measure seems to be vigilantism. Hell, it is already happening in some small towns: there are big signs stating that any robbers or kidnappers will be lynched on sight!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mexico elections

    The justification is silly, if they kidnap a person, why wouldn't they call using the mobile phone of the person they just kidnapped?

    The reason behind this is the Mexican government fears it's people and it's election was believed to be a sham. It was statistically impossible for the last minute swing that happened and 1.5 million people marched to protest the election. After that they 'found' an extra 2.5 million votes and said he won but by a smaller margin....

    Dirty dirty election.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    another fail

    They're called criminals for a reason. They don't follow the law and they don't give a rats about anyone else. Any law like this is sure to be ignored by anyone pursuing a degree in criminal behaviour.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Sunday kidnappers?

    Now the best way to stop kidnappers is not to carry a phone?

    The stupidity of lawmakers never ceases to amaze me. A professional kidnapper shouldnt have a problem getting a phone from other side of the border. So it's a law against sunday kidnappers that kidnap people without cellphones.

    This is a law i'd like to call "have-to-do-something-nevermind-how-stupid law". Public wants something to be done so politicians do something nevermind how stupid to get a few years of ease and some votes. It's done to give impression that politicians are listening to public and trying to solve problem.

    Even Paris Hilton could see the stupidity

  11. Antonio
    Thumb Down

    Another half baked and probably useless law.

    The law was approved based also on another issue: phone blackmailing via fake kidnappings; as a mexican citizen, I've already been "kidnapped" once, thankfully I got to laugh about it for I was home when "I" called to ask for my ransom all weepy.

    Yes, it's election time and they want to convince us, the people they already rob, that we should vote for one thief or the other. There's an spanish expression "dar atole con el dedo" meaning acting like someone's doing something when in reality it's just that: an act. This is what they're doing.

    The law will be useless for one simple reason: no need to get cellphones abroad...there are these magical, mysterious machines called public phones; this regulation will serve pretty much the same purpose as DRM or several other "edicts" passed 'round here: annoy and alienate the lawful population or the genuine costumer. I also find amazing that criminals have the money and patience too deal with the extremely expensive and unreliable cell phone service her, while around the world mobile telephony is the way to go, in Mexico it could be still considered a luxury.

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