Mexico’s Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a plan to create a national cellphone user registry with biometric data is unconstitutional, in a blow to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s government, which backed the measure.
The decision is a relief for cell phone carriers, which would have had to cover the costs of collecting the data.
Out of the 11-member court, nine justices joined in invalidating the registry, which would have included fingerprints or eye biometrics, on constitutional grounds, and two voted in favor of partial invalidation.
The initiative backed by lawmakers from Lopez Obrador’s MORENA party was initially passed by the Senate in April 2021. It was billed as a tool to fight crime in Mexico, which has one of the highest incidences of kidnapping in the world, by making it more difficult for bad actors to remain anonymous when purchasing mobile phones.
The creation of the registry, known as Panaut, was suspended last year after facing legal challenges by organizations including Mexico’s telecoms regulator, the IFT.
The justices argued that the registry would violate human rights and would not adequately safeguard sensitive data.
“The national registry of mobile phone users is not a necessary measure in a democracy since it does not maintain a balance between the need for data in limited circumstances and the right to privacy,” said Supreme Court Justice Norma Lucia Pina Hernandez.
The registry would have impacted Mexico’s more than 120 million mobile lines, the majority of which use pre-paid SIM cards.
America Movil, AT&T Inc and other carriers would have been responsible for collecting customers’ data, including fingerprints or eye biometrics, to submit to a registry managed by the IFT. That information would have been available to law enforcement upon request.
The IFT, which had requested the registry be suspended, did not immediately have a comment.
The Mexico Internet Association said last year the registry would cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars to implement.
Source: ADN 40