Biometric data, is it safe to give it to the government?

Last April, the Senate of the Republic approved the creation of a National Register of Mobile Telephone Users.

According to this new law, telecommunications companies are obliged to request biometric data from the owners of each line.

The scope of this measure is not yet clear, which provides that the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) has 180 days to implement it.

What is clear is that it opens the door to misuse of these public databases, which have been compromised in the past.

Thus, in 2010 it was discovered that Tepito sold the electoral roll for the entire country and the driver’s license registry, among other official databases.

In this context, “how do I know that the data collected in the new Register will be used for legitimate purposes?” Nathan Levy, director of Cyfense and ICE, companies specialized in cybersecurity.

“It is very easy for that information to fall into the wrong hands. In Mexico, the good use that is going to be given to that information has not been demonstrated. Which can also be used against its owners ”, says Levy.

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Biometric data

The most intimate tool we have today is our mobile phone”Explains Levy of Cyfense.

Because “it automatically collects information – images, locations, conversations – that we don’t even give it.”

And for governments, the cell phone becomes the preferred device to access information from citizens. Either for “legitimate purposes, such as safeguarding the security of a country.” Or illegitimate, “such as the manipulation of public opinion and control of the population,” adds this telecommunications engineer.

And here comes the big question: if the data to be collected is going to be used correctly, or if it will be used against the citizens themselves.

In this sense, with the Register, which was born with the aim of ending telephone extortion, these crimes will not disappear, he says. Luis Enrique Vazquez, expert in Law and Technology at the School of Social Sciences and Government of Tec de Monterrey.

“It is just going to be easier for the authorities to accuse someone who may not have been. And that is not attacked by the reform of the Telecommunications and Broadcasting law, which creates this registry. “

Alleged culprits

“80% of the people who are in a rate plan are more identified than anyone. They have your card, your number and asking for biometric data for something as simple as keeping a registry is extreme, ”explains Vázquez.

In addition, he claims that it will not serve the main intention: to prevent crimes related to cell phones.

“If the intention is to prevent crimes, I don’t see criminals going to Telcel to say ‘hey, here is my iris, my footprint‘. In the worst case, a lot of poor people are going to start buying phones and they are going to go to jail, ”he says.

The specialist says that if you have the presumption that such a phone is linked to those traces, then ‘you did it’, the authority will say.

“If a homeless person buys 50 telephone lines and you steal their data, there is still a window of crime open that will not be solved with biometric data,” he says.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has stated that the motivation for this new registry is the prevention of “illegal acts” committed with telephones, generally stolen or prepaid.

If implemented, this database would be the largest in Mexico, greater than the electoral roll, which has 80 million voters, against 130 million telephone lines.

“Doing it well is going to be complex, due to the cybersecurity requirements that must be coupled with the protection of biometric data, the photo of the iris and face and fingerprint. But, the new law does not say anything about it ”, emphasizes Vázquez.

“And anyone with the technical ability to hack is going to try to steal that information. The mere fact of having so much information, so specific and in a single point is extremely valuable in economic terms ”.

For the lawyer who teaches classes at the School of Social Sciences and Government of Tec de Monterrey, Guadalajara Campus, “it will be difficult for (mobile phone) companies to take the necessary precautions (to safeguard this information) because it will represent a cost important. It is clear to me that it will not be the government that provides the money ”.

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Wolves in sheep’s clothing

Made the law, made the trap, goes the saying. Thus, “prestanombres, or foreign lines that are going to be sold in Mexico and that are going to escape the regulations” will emerge, he estimates. Nathan Levy.

Be that as it may, “private initiative is going to find a way (to avoid the new reform).”

On the other hand, due to its low levels of computer security and large volume of telephone lines, Mexico occupies the first positions in cybercrime, indicates Levy.

In addition, identity theft “is one of the most common,” explains Vázquez.

It evokes “the case of a man who a few years ago was accused of kidnapping. Under his name they had bought a car to kidnap a person and until he could prove that his identity had been supplanted, he spent time in jail ”.

A case that recalls how vulnerable citizens are to digital crimes. And how unprotected our personal data is.

For his part, Jorge Fernando Negrete, president of the firm Digital Policy & Law Group, assured that up to 30 million Mexicans could be left without access to a cell phone due to the new National Register of Mobile Phone Users, which requires sharing biometric data with users. providers and the government.

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