President of Mexico criticizes telecommunications companies for obstructing user registry

MEXICO CITY, Apr 28 (Reuters) – Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Wednesday criticized the country’s telecommunications companies for obstructing a law creating a national biometric registry of cell phone users, which he opposes. both industry and rights advocacy groups.

Supporters of the roll, approved by the Senate this month, argue that it is necessary to reduce crimes such as extortion and kidnapping by making it difficult for criminals to remain anonymous when acquiring new mobile phone lines without the obligation of a registry.

The registry would require companies to pay for the collection of their clients’ biometric data, which would then be stored and managed by the telecommunications regulator.

The industry maintains that its implementation would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, while groups say it represents a human rights violation and could lead to wrongful convictions if people’s identities are stolen.

But López Obrador said telecom providers were blocking a law designed to protect people.

“These telephone companies (…) have a lot of power, in addition they act with a lot of hypocrisy, because for the hiring of a telephone service they already request that data,” he told reporters at his usual morning press conference.

“Now, as they also have a lot of money to buy or rent information media, they are bringing a campaign against us,” he added, highlighting Telmex, a unit of América Móvil, the telecommunications giant controlled by the family of billionaire businessman Carlos Slim.

The body for the protection of personal data in Mexico, the INAI, agreed to challenge the registration before the Supreme Court. Judges have also suspended its implementation, according to local media.

While more than 150 countries around the world maintain cell phone user records, only about 8% of them require biometric data, according to the global telecommunications industry lobbyist GSMA.

(Reporting by Cassandra Garrison. Edited in Spanish by Miguel Angel Gutiérrez)