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Cellphones Communications Crime Government Privacy

Mexico Will Shut Down 25.9 Million Cell Phones 370

Posted by timothy
from the sort-of-thing-governments-tend-to-do dept.
Several months ago, as a way to prevent the use of cellular phones in criminal activities, the government of Mexico started a program to require all phone owners to register cell phones in their own names. The registry associates each phone with the listed owner's Clave Unica de Registro de Poblacion (CURP) [CURP, in English], which is supposed to be a unique ID for every Mexican citizen. Now, as nanahuatzin writes, Yesterday the timeline to register the cell phones expired, and there are [approx 26] million cell phones yet unregistered (English translation of the Spanish original). While the procedure is simple, sending a text message with the CURP to a special number, most people do not want to register: some are wary of the uses to which the government will put the data; others did not understand or did not know the procedure. So far, only 69% have registered, most of them in the last few days, while the system to register has been oversaturated. So in an unprecedented move for any country, the Mexican government is announcing the shutdown of 25.9 million cell phone lines. Meanwhile, as a measure of protest, hundreds of people have registered their cell phones in the name of the president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, to show how pointless is the registry."
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Mexico Will Shut Down 25.9 Million Cell Phones

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:39PM (#31810370)

    ...but in Spain, you (the phone number owner) had to go with your "DNI" (National Identification Document) to your TC to register it and not be shut down.

  • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:53PM (#31810544)
    Most "Drug Lords" use sat phones.
  • by Nichotin (794369) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:55PM (#31810568)
    This is was not unique for Norway at the time, but I remember what happened: Many criminals started using other peoples social security numbers... Let's say you want to register with certain operators, all you need to do is get a prepaid package with a new number, then send a text message with "REG firstname surname socialsecuritynumber". Nothing but automatic verification. I don't know what is worse, let criminals have anonymous phones or have them use other peoples ID.
  • by dAzED1 (33635) <<brianlamere> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:01PM (#31810632) Homepage Journal

    My wife and I help run an animal rescue group down in TJ (http://www.friendsofhstj.org) and several of our members have Mexico phones so we can call people while there, and not pay international roaming :P

    I didn't even know about this, and since only Mexican citizens have one of these CURP numbers...apparently non-Mexicans have to do a bit extra to have a working phone there.

  • by Ranzear (1082021) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:26PM (#31810862)
    pointless government bureaucracy

    This is redundant in three different ways.
  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:30PM (#31810892)
    You are right in localizing me. I suppose it can indeed be a nuisance to foreigners, and I could very well go without it. As to the rest of your post - first, ACTA will not have any effect on cellphones, as far as I can glean from the leaked text. Regarding data retention laws coming in via the EU - the constitutional court has made it very clear that it has the last say on any matter which has a stronger constitutional protection in Germany than in the EU, so, after the last ruling of the BVerfG, data retention cannot be slipped in via the EU without first taking away power from the constitutional court. If that happens, I'll be on the streets and will protest with all that I have.
  • a few months back I was driving along in TJ with a group of women and refrained from pointing out the two bridges in a row that had a person (each) hung from them. It wasn't until the next day when they read about it in the news, knowing we went down that road, that a few of them realized they had seen something, but didn't think about it. Sometimes that's the best way - to not think about it. Another of our volunteers got separated once from the caravan, having decided that day to drive their own car - they got lost, and ended up passing a man being burned alive by a gang. She never drove her own car there again, that's for certain...

    So yeah..."essential liberties" that we get upset about up here north of the boarder really aren't that essential. For a place that's so close to us, it's...very, very far away.

  • by zogger (617870) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:18PM (#31811306) Homepage Journal

    There are several reasons why the goons in most countries love to keep some drugs illegal, here are the five largest reasons, and this would more or less apply to mexico as well as the US right now:

    1) They make a shitload, I mean just truckloads of cash more money at it, and all governments have insiders who are corrupt and in the drug trade, top to bottom to sideways. Look, they can't even keep drugs out of prisons, this is a major clue how corrupting all that huge cash money is. Illegal drug money funds from street cops all the way to judges, prosecutors, a lot of dotmil smugglers, spooks of various nations, and so on, all the way to major funding banks and real estate funds..that money is being transferred around "in the system" as well as under the table. Legalizing it would knock those cash profits down immensely, to those people and to the other "civilian" smugglers and dealers. Really, dealers are the last people to want it legalized. And the government simply does not want to lose all their "war on some drugs" gravy train. And gives pols some TV talking points about being "tough" on..drugs, whatever. They are always "tough"...lookit their ads during election cycles

    2)Gives them a wonderful excuse to keep building the police state. They have people completely conditioned now to accept no knock raids, roadblocks, cameras, wiretaps, legions of "undercover" goons, etc..stuff that was taught to me was only done in evile places like east germany, back when I was a kid. Now..common. Plus, they got all the cops and paramilitary conditioned that it is all "legal and proper".

    3)Takes more and more people out of the official "you are cool to vote" pool, and makes felons out of them, so they have legal obligations that go to forward point 2 above (the goal is for all citizens to be criminals so the governments can pwnz ur azz

    4)creates a ton of unnecessary jobs in the criminal justice system, including building private for profit jails and running inmate slave labor factories and shops, supplying the hardware for the surveillance and command and control big bro state, etc. A lot of people make a lot of money off of big brother action now, and the war on terra and drugs are the two big reasons for them to do that.

    5)then there's stuff like medicinal marijuana and industrial hemp..cheap to grow, effective for a lot of purposes..threatens a lot of established old big money interests.

  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Informative)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:26PM (#31811378) Homepage

    Mexico's biggest problem has nothing to do with the drug cartels. It has to do with the separation of Castillian (Spain) heritage people from the Mexican Indian heritage people. There are few real "landowners" that are of an Indian heritage. The government is of the Castillian heritage people, and nobody else counts. Period.

    As long as the Indian heritage people get bribed and killed it is OK. The real power in the country stays on their nice estates and nobody bothers them.

    The only way to "fix" this would be a "regime change" or a civil war. Neither of which would be much fun to watch from up north. Besides, they have already had such a civil war and it didn't take even 100 years for it to go back the way it was before. I'd say a civil war wouldn't solve the problem - it would just make life hell for the Indian heritage people because there would be reprisals.

    Until this problem is resolved, nothing that happens in Mexico is going to fix anything.

  • by Superdarion (1286310) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @07:29PM (#31812218)
    'cause I am.

    I am one of those who hasn't registered his phone. Not because I don't know how or didn't know I had to, but because I'm against it.

    Besides my paranoia, which is well founded, I REFUSE to have a cell phone if things go this way. As the summary reads, many people have been registering to the President's name. While this is kind of funny, it means that it's possible for anyone to register under MY name, then go out and commit crimes with that phone.

    The only way of knowing about this is to go to the SEGOB's page and manually check out which numbers are registered to your CURP. So what? I'm suppossed to do this every two days to make sure no one is using my CURP to register?!

    This if a very stupid idea. Even if there was some ID check proccedure while registering (which would require posts being set exclusively to check that and you, the user, would have to personally go there with your ID card and whatnot), it's just a call for a wave of cellphone theft that will get out of hand and render the whole thing useless.

    As of paranoia, a few years ago something was tried here just like this RENAUT thing, but with cars, called the RENAVE. It was a registration (mandatory) of new cars (and the plan was to extend it to used cars as well) to "help prevent auto theft". Well fuck it! A few months into it the news hit us that the one in charge was using the information to steal and sell stolen cars himself! Not to mention that he happened to be an Argentinan genocide from the 60s.

    And now I'm supposed to trust the government with a cellphone-CURP database?! Fuck no! I'd rather go back to sending smoke signals to my friends and family!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @08:14PM (#31812490)

    Any self-respecting "liberal western democracy"(not a terribly long list), would skip the inefficient-but-highly-rabble-rousing step of forcing people to register themselves and do it the probably-at-least-as-accurate-but-so-much-quieter-and-we-get-to-cut-our-private-sector-buddies-in-on-the-action way instead.

    Ok, here's the deal. Running a modern cell network, or an electronic payment system, automatically generates large volumes of useful and annonymity destroying data. Further, entities like Telcoms and credit card companies tend to be few in number, large, relatively opaque, and fairly cooperative, if given the right incentives(*cough*AT&T/NSA*cough*). Given that this is so, only a lazy, second-rate putz would design the program around trying to force individuals to manually provide data. Hell, even if the program was "We give you $100, absolutely free, no strings attached!" you'd get a response rate of well under 100%, because of ignorance and laziness and paranoia. When your intentions are, in fact, bad, of course you are going to get a worse response rate.

    Here is how you would do it "right": Some fairly large percentage(conveniently, this is the percentage that includes virtually all the people who matter, politically) of cell lines are paid for with credit cards that have real names and real billing addresses attached, either of individuals or businesses. If they've been paid for thus for more than a few months, you can even be largely sure that the credit card used isn't stolen. With the cooperation(easily secured, if history is any indication) of the telcos and banks, assigning identities to these lines should be a fairly simple exercise. Even better, it will be completely transparent to the owners of those lines. No friction, no pain, no hassle, absolutely nothing for the sort of respectable citizens who might write a letter to their congressman to get worked up about, or even notice.

    This leaves you with the tricky cases, prepaids that have never been paid for with traceable means(or have a very unstable payment history that isn't sufficiently informative). Conveniently, though, you still have cell location information and calling records. Various spook-infested-but-ostensibly-private-sector data mining outfits would love to draw some useful correlations, for the right price. Plus, it isn't as though there is much stopping you from, say, writing down Joe Scumbag's IMEI when the cops stop him on unrelated business. Except in cases of downright horrific brutality(and sometimes even then) public opinion will let you get away with a whole lot, as long as you are dealing with those perceived to be undesireable. Making IMEI(or even locally stored data) retrieval a fairly routine part of the "patting down the undesirable" process should give you a fair number of identities to attach to your web of cell location and call log data.

    That is how the pros would do it. No muss, no fuss, nobody but the tinfoil hat brigade and a few security/civil liberties researchers that nobody listens to would even notice; much less get seriously spooked about it, and the data produced would be as good, or better, than what you'd get from a clunky and scary manual registration effort.

    It wouldn't be so easy in Mexico. If you have been to any third world country then you would realize that most people don't have cell phone plans or credit cards. They get a sim, maybe from a cell phone company, or maybe it is an old friend from uncle, brother, sister, mother, father, boss, neighbor, lover and put it in their phone. Then they pass a vendor, probably on the street, selling a prepaid card. They exchange a few hundred pesos (or insert monetary unit), usually equivalent to $10-20 US dollars, and you get the card and hope that it isn't counterfeit. You scratch the card off, call a number or text, and a few hundred minutes are added to your sim.

    See most third world countries operate on cash, small unmarked bills please. Most people/busine

  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Informative)

    by Requiem18th (742389) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @09:09PM (#31812842)

    Wow, freedom for me, Orwell for others, how generous of you of you.

    Look, after our [Mexicans] voters records were bought illegally [wikipedia.org] by ChoicePoint, an already [wikipedia.org] unthrustable [wikipedia.org] American company a major wave of phone driven extortions started.

    Yes, the extortionists use unregistered cellphones, but their tactics wouldn't be anywhere that effective if they didn't have access to the name, address, home phone, birth data and family (via name and location matching) of every adult Mexican in the country.

    And now the proposed solution is to also give them our cellphone numbers?

    Given the corruption of the government, the less power it has the better. The government simply can't guarantee the confidentiality of this data.

    But let's say that we give in to your idea that Mexicans are so pitiable that we don't deserve privacy because we can't handle it. Let's say I agree and get every cellphone registered.

    How does that help? Simply put, it doesn't. It's terribly easy to steal a cellphone, cloning it is harder but still easy and of course you could always send fake data. Yes fake data can get you in trouble, but that can be solved by having two phones, one for lawful use and one for unlawful use.

    The only people this is going to effectively keep track of are law abiding, single, non stoled nor cloned cellphone users.

    So the record is a security risk with no benefits associated, but yay for Big Brother, as long as is not in your country!

  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Informative)

    by Requiem18th (742389) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @10:27PM (#31813232)

    Tlatelolco, our Tiananmen

  • Re:Torn (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheLink (130905) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @10:54PM (#31813358) Journal
    > Why? It won't make you any safer as criminals have ways around this and only enables the government to track you via GPS.

    1) Only the smart/resourceful criminals though. So at least you get to track 90% of those who carry phones around.
    2) The difference between a noncriminal and a criminal could just be one bad decision on one bad day. And often people forget to conveniently leave their phone at home before making that one bad decision.
    3) It's not tracking via GPS, it's via phone cells.

    Lastly, the really smart amoral people just work in the finance industry or politics where they legally but unethically take money, they're usually not criminals by definition ;).
  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Informative)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @11:00PM (#31813392) Homepage Journal

    >>The flipside of the registration requirement is that tourists will be turned away by clerks who don't know how to enter information from a foreign passport and that selling SIM cards entails a huge overhead.

    I visited France last year, and had no trouble getting a prepaid cell phone, but they did need to see my passport. Took maybe 20 minutes or so. If I'd cared, I'm sure I could have found a grey market retailer of SIM cards.

  • Re:Torn (Score:5, Informative)

    by amRadioHed (463061) on Monday April 12, 2010 @01:15AM (#31814024)

    The whole utopia of legalized drugs that people imagine, doesn't exist

    Ever heard of Portugal [time.com]? I assure you it exists and it has yet to fall into a nightmare of addiction and ruined lives yet. Just reduced addiction, reduced crime, and reduced drug related health problems.

  • Re:Torn (Score:4, Informative)

    by xtracto (837672) on Monday April 12, 2010 @01:53AM (#31814168) Journal

    Howdy cow, how many expert opinions about Mexico's problem are there in the USA!

    Allow me to intervene, as a Mexican:
    - LOL to the Castillan heritage comment, the Porfiriatio ended almost 100 years ago. Sure, there is class stratification and a lot of poverty on rural areas but the war of casts is non-existent.
    - To your comment "Most of Mexico's problems would disappear if drugs were legal, and handled by prescription drug companies." I must add, "if drugs were legal In the USA (I am sure you meant that, just to make it clear), Mexico's problem is not drug consumption, and it recently it was made legal to possess small amount of *all* (mariguana, cocaine, meths, heroin, etc) for personal use.

    Now, to the comment about army/gov/carters merging, sadly he is partly right. This is the scenario I see (from friends living ALL around the country):
    During previous presidential administration, cartels became more and more powerful (they were given space) among the government by paying and corrupting officials (I am talking from police departments to municipal president [wikipedia.org] or even governors (some may argue).
    At the same time, there was this group of amry special forces who deserted from the Mexican army to became "Los Zetas". This is where the military element of cartels comes in.

    Then comes our current president (Felipe Calderón) who throws the army to directly to the cartels. Unfortunately he does it without a real strategy and what happens is exactly the same thing happening when you throw a stone to a bee nest.
    The problem he also encounters is that law enforcement agencies are controlled by the cartels (Police departments, part of the PGR, AFI, etc). In addition, some third parties have seen how easy is *not* to be caught after doing a crime so they become criminals.

    Right now the state of Mexico is deplorable. Just last month convoys of cartels' cars were used to stop all traffic in major intercity highways!, people's cars where seized and burned up. One of those convoys were of more than 10 vans/trucks. In my opinion the "war on drugs" has made Mexico worst than some middle east places with "war on terrorism".

    But of course the reaction of our president when someone suggested to get the blue helmets was of indignation... the guy's pride does not allow him to understand that Mexican drug cartels have absolutely surpassed Mexico's army (which *in general* is trained to help population and not to lead a war)

  • by xtracto (837672) on Monday April 12, 2010 @02:08AM (#31814214) Journal

    No, Mexico is right now almost a shit-hole. Do not let the "disney world" image painted by the tourism industry deceive you.

    And I say that as a Mexican. My family lives there, in different states lying all over the country (north, center and south).

    I get sad when I read about the "everything nice and friendly" image of Mexico is advertised to other countries. The worst thing is that the government wants people (both in and outside Mexico) to believe this, when terrible things are happening.

    You may have heard it before, Mexico is "El país de no pasa nada" (the country of "nothing happens"). The first step to dealing with a problem is to acknowledge its existence. The issue is that our government does not accept that it is incapable of beating the drug cartels/corruption problems. Sure, just throw a bunch of soldiers and if that does not help, throw some more.

  • by Aceticon (140883) on Monday April 12, 2010 @04:47AM (#31814786)

    In November 2008 there were 28.8 million credit cards in Mexico and 10.7 million debit cards (source [creditcards.com]).

    The population of the country is about 110 million.

    The US has the highest usage of "plastic" money in the world, so data linking between service purchases and card registered addresses work very well there. It doesn't necessarilly work in other nations.

    In my experience (all of it outside the US, but including Canada which is some regions has a similar commercial-culture), anywhere in the world one can easilly get a pre-paid mobile phone account and top it up with cash only.

  • Re:Torn (Score:4, Informative)

    by jlehtira (655619) on Monday April 12, 2010 @07:08AM (#31815250) Journal

    The whole utopia of legalized drugs that people imagine, doesn't exist

    Ever heard of Portugal? I assure you it exists and it has yet to fall into a nightmare of addiction and ruined lives yet. Just reduced addiction, reduced crime, and reduced drug related health problems.

    Based on what I've read, Portugal has not made it legal to grow, manufacture, transport, sell, own or use any drugs. From Cato institute:

    On July 1, 2001, a nationwide law in Portugal took effect that decriminalized all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Under the new legal framework, all drugs were "decriminalized," not "legalized." Thus, drug possession for personal use and drug usage itself are still legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions are deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and are removed completely from the criminal realm. Drug trafficking continues to be prosecuted as a criminal offense. http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10080 [cato.org]

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