New Mexico Law to Fingerprint All Mobile Phone Users

By Michael Horton •  Updated: 02/10/09 •  2 min read

Under a new law published Monday, Mexico will start a national register of mobile phone users by fingerprinting all customers in an effort to catch criminals who use mobile phone to extort money and negotiate kidnapping ransoms. The new law, which will be in force this April, will give mobile phone companies a year to build the database of their clients – complete with fingerprints and any other personally identifiable information.

Lawmakers who pushed the bill through Congress last year say there are around 700 criminal bands in Mexico, some of them operating from prison cells, that use cell phones to extract extortion and kidnap ransom payments. Most of the phones in Mexico are prepaid phones which can be bought and more minutes added without giving personal information – but that will now change. Any new subscribers will be fingerprinted when they buy a “throw-away phone”.

Under the new law, phone companies are required to store all call logs, text, and voice messages for up to a year. Of course, this information would only be available by court order.

Carlos Slim, who controls Mexico’s largest cell phone operator America Movil, said the law would be more useful if it tracked the movements of cell phone users. “What needs to be done is another type of more effective measures,” Slim told reporters.

Lawmakers are urging phone users to report lost or loaned phones to avoid being held responsible if their owned phone is used in a crime.

What do you think about Mexico’s new law? Should the U.S. adopt a similar law?