Mexican court strikes down cellphone personal data registry

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. biometric / ˌbaɪ əˈmɛ trɪk / (adj.) – related to the detailed physical information used to identify a person

    The authorities collect the biometric data of suspected criminals so they can be easily identified and caught.

  2. extortion / ɪkˈstɔr ʃən / (n.) – the crime of getting money or other valuable things using force, threat, or abuse of one’s authority

    The officer who illegally asked a foreigner for $20,000 was charged with extortion.

  3. burner phone / ˈbɜr nər ˌfoʊn / (n.) – a prepaid phone often used to hide the identity of the user and is thrown after use

    Burner phones are often very cheap.

  4. rein in (someone/something) / reɪn ɪn / (phrasal v.) – to limit or control someone or something

    Congress must rein in the budget for military spending and allot more to healthcare.

  5. registry / ˈrɛdʒ ə stri / (n.) – an official record

    The local government is working on keeping its registries updated.


Read the text below.

Mexico’s Supreme Court struck down on Monday a 2021 law that would have required cellphone companies to collect biometric data like fingerprints or eye scans from customers.

The court ruled the law was too invasive of personal liberty, in comparison with any positive effect it could have had. The court also ruled there were other measures that could be taken to cut down on crimes involving phones.

Cellphones in Mexico are often used in kidnappings and extortions, sometimes by inmates calling from prisons. However, such calls are usually made from stolen, pre-paid or “burner” phones that the law wouldn’t have affected much.

The law, which was passed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s Morena party last year, was the latest in a string of failed efforts to rein in phone crimes.

Civic groups said the measure would put customers’ personal data at risk and do little to fight crime. The Mexican government has tried cellphone registries before without success and hasn’t even been able to block cell calls from within prisons.

López Obrador said at the time that “it is just a registry to care for the population,” adding that “we will never spy on anybody.”

Critics were more concerned about the information being leaked or sold, saying it could actually help thieves, extortionists and kidnappers. They noted a similar registry attempted by a previous administration between 2008 and 2011 was abandoned after user data was leaked.

Many also feared such a huge government registry of as many as 120 million cellphone lines would be vulnerable to hackers.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Would you allow your biometric data to be collected by private companies if it’s said to be for the safety of the general population? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • How should organizations that collect personal information be held liable in case of data leaks (ex. make them pay the victims)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Are crimes related to data privacy widespread in your country? What do you usually do to protect yourself from these crimes (ex. use security software, avoid giving away personal data)? Discuss.
  • Do you think that people in your country are well-informed about data privacy? In your opinion, who needs to be more educated on it (ex. students, the elderly)? Discuss.