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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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  • Torn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xacid (560407) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:37PM (#31810340) Journal

    I'm a little torn on this. I'm all for freedom of just about everything - but only in stable societies. I'm not too much of an idealist to believe military states don't also have their usefulness.

    Considering the grip the drug cartels have on the balls of that place I'm not too terrible surprised though. As Mexico's next door neighbor I really can't blame them for trying new tactics to deal with this situation.

  • by WiiVault (1039946) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:39PM (#31810364)
    Things in Mexico have gotten bad lately especially along the boarder. This is killing their tourism industry which is a key component of their economy. Americas especially are fearful to visit, and the days of a weekend in Tijuana are all but over. The Mexican governemnt has failed time and time again to combat this problem, in no large part thanks to their massive curruption problem. Despite some material wealth I fear that Mexico is sliding into a true third-world economy. If the choice is between bribing cops/ possibly getting murdered and spending a few extra bucks to go to say Miami then the choice seems clear.
  • Nice protest. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:46PM (#31810460)

    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.

    Wow. 25.9 million cell phones get turned off, and out of all of them, only a few hundred flip the government the finger to this useless piece of legislation? I'm disappointed.

  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:46PM (#31810462)

    I'm not too much of an idealist to believe military states don't also have their usefulness.

    You know how some people "just don't get it" that in the USA, corporations and the government have merged?

    Well, in .mx, drug cartels and govt/military have merged, and some folks just don't get it.

    I fail to see how the average peasant benefits by giving the milgov/cartels access to their phone records, although it probably makes kidnapping/extortion marginally easier. Just find a peasant with some money, then use the phone records to find their closest young relative, or closest female relative, etc, etc.

  • by siphonophore (158996) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:47PM (#31810476)

    But what they're going through is really a civil war. And in the US, we took quite a few liberties with civil rights during our civil war.

    Will it help? Maybe--it will at least require drug gangs to go to the trouble of stealing cell phones that only have useful lives of a few days

  • by Gri3v3r (1736820) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:53PM (#31810542)
    Here = Greece. On June every unregistered cellphone number will be deactivated by the providers who are obligated to do so by the authorities. I wonder how this can halt criminality. They can just get accounts from other countries, can't they? Or, simpler, they can steal accounts from others and use them till they get reported. it will generate more illegality like stolen account information sales or customer databases hacking. And of course, there is the privacy issue and how the information will be treated by the providers.
  • Re:Torn (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Threni (635302) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:54PM (#31810562)

    > As Mexico's next door neighbor I really can't blame them for trying new tactics to deal with this situation.

    I'd imagine that legalising drugs would be a more successful policy than:

    1) trying to stop millions of people from growing/making, selling and using drugs
    and
    2) trying to force millions of people to fill forms, provide personal/identifying details to the government for permission to own a phone

    Perhaps Terry Gilliam named his movie after the wrong country after all...

  • by fearlezz (594718) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:55PM (#31810570) Homepage

    If you steal a phone, it'll be blocked before you got to call your criminal contacts. However, if you take the owner along, you may have a few days before it's blocked. So instead of stopping the crime, this is a perfectly good excuse for abducting (and possibly killing) any person that could supply a phone.

    Great move!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:59PM (#31810614)

    Pretty shocking that so many countries are afraid of anonymous speech.

  • Re:Torn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:06PM (#31810676)

    I suppose you're in Germany, where this registration requirement is both a farce and a nuisance. You can roam with an unregistered card from a country without a similar requirement and thanks to legislation limiting roaming fees in the EU, this isn't even particularly expensive. You can buy a SIM card at a discounter and register it online, giving fabricated information or, like the mexicans, real information of another person. You can buy used and already registered prepaid SIM cards at flea markets. Let's face it, this is an "if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns" kind of situation. 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 envy your optimism about the constitutional court being able to stop the barrage of attempts to record as much data about every citizen as possible. The "Vorratsdatenspeicherung" law has been sacked, yes, but ACTA is coming and the reprise of the data retention law will certainly arrive via the EU too, and then the constitutional court will simply not have a say in the matter. Fascism will not arrive in jackboots, it's nice and clean and agreeable, until it's too late to stop it.

  • by FrozenGeek (1219968) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:10PM (#31810714)
    So, the stated goal is to prevent criminals from using cell phones. Since we are talking about criminals, what prevents them from registering under a stolen identity? Or what prevents them from stealing cell phones? Or what prevents them from paying $1000 to Juan (who earns $50/month) over there to register their cell phone in his name? I understand the desire, but it won't work (even if government corruption does not undermine the plan). It will become another pointless government bureaucracy.
  • Re:Torn (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:25PM (#31810858)
    That you don't tell us what country this is doesn't help your argument.
  • Re:Torn (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:39PM (#31810958)

    What I find interesting is that when push comes to shove, many Mexicans realize that the technological boon isn't worth the loss of privacy. So when the government says "give us your identity or lose your cellphone" they say, "Here, take my cellphone." Would Americans do that, or just lay down and take it, for love of convenience?

  • by elucido (870205) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:48PM (#31811042)

    Fascists don't make laws on the basis of whether or not it will work to solve a problem. Fascists make laws to control human behavior. It's as worthless as national ID cards with DNA built in. It's as worthless as the laws that make it a crime to possess certain drugs or information. These laws aren't designed to solve a problem, they are designed to control and regulate human behavior.

    Usually these laws create even more problems or turn small problems into a big problem, which is then used as a convenient excuse to pass even more draconian fascist laws which give the government even more authority to regular behavior.

    This process will not stop until we are all chipped government robots with no free will. That is the end goal/final solution of fascism.

    Phone theft isn't even necessary, just go to a safehouse and use their phone. Or just pay a random individual $100 to use their phone for 10 minutes and I can pretty much guarantee if the price is right you'll find some individual somewhere who will let you make a call for $10 a minute.

    In fact I'm sure most people on slashdot would accept that deal, and there would be no need to rob anyone.Of course when it's time to explain what happen to the police then of course the money isn't mentioned and it was a robbery.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:54PM (#31811102)

    Don't be naive. Criminals don't borrow nor pay for your phone. They take it.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:55PM (#31811106) Journal
    You'd have to be doing fairly serious crime before adding abduction or murder to your rap sheet for the job becomes practical(and even if you are, it is probably cheaper to use corruption, or apply smaller quantities of violence more strategically. A nice fat "tip" to the guy making minimum wage to man the counter at Juan's Cellphone hut can probably get you a phone registered to anybody he has sold a phone to in the last couple of weeks, and no questions asked. If you do steal a phone, displaying your gun and informing the former owner "I will need this to be working for the next week. Should it stop, I'll be back to express my displeasure." almost certainly works 90% as well as just abducting the guy, while being far less conspicuous, and a rather less serious crime.)

    There probably will be a tiny number of statistically nonrepresentative; but rather ghastly and mediagenic, cases of what you describe; but I strongly suspect that the vast majority of real criminal work will either be done within the time constraints of basic pickpocketing/mugging(grab the phone, you probably have at least half an hour before they notice it is gone/pull themselves together and get to another phone to start calling their telco and their bank and so forth), with theft+intimidation("I'll be taking this. Your story is that you 'lost' it and spent several days looking everywhere for it. If I hear otherwise, I'll be sure to tell your children, so to speak."), or with basic corruption(just as with IDs, there will probably be a large and fairly easily accessible market for phones registered to just about anybody, available at a modest premium over the underlying service contract).
  • Re:Torn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:58PM (#31811146) Journal

    Well, in .mx, drug cartels and govt/military have merged, and some folks just don't get it.

    You have to be wildly ignorant to suggest that the cartels and government/military have merged.
    The cartels have started to openly attack military bases/outposts to block or draw away military resources from being able to intercept smuggled shipments.

    Mexico's problem is endemic corruption, not a military state or a corporatocracy.

  • Re:slashdot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:00PM (#31811158) Journal
    The trouble with your comment is that it assumes that the measure will be even slightly effective.

    The situation in Mexico is untenable, and threatens to get even zestier as time goes on. Something must be done.

    However, not all "something"s are created equal, and choosing one that doesn't work doesn't count as doing something.
  • Re:Torn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:03PM (#31811200)

    Considering the grip the drug cartels have on the balls of that place I'm not too terrible surprised though. As Mexico's next door neighbor I really can't blame them for trying new tactics to deal with this situation.

    I think you have to look at how the drug war is handled overall, though, and realize that increasing militarization of Mexico is probably not as effective as other means of stopping gangs (i.e. changing policies to interfere with the multi-billion dollar black market that funds them).

    To put it more plainly, the U.S.-led drug war is the only reason the drug cartels can amass so much money and power in the first place. As long as the DEA keeps seizing *part* of the supply of drugs, the remaining market will increase price due to the imbalance of supply and demand. Al Capone made it big because of alcohol prohibition, by running the drug (alcohol) from areas of production (Canada and other countries) into profitable markets with insatiable demand (US). Pablo Escobar made it big because of cocaine prohibition, by running the drug (cocaine) from areas of production (Peru, Bolivia, Columbia) into profitable markets with insatiable demand (US, Puerto Rico).

    The markets are positive feedback loops because the drugs are addictive, and the money is dirty, so it is spent in a decentralized fashion by gangs to buy weapons. We have seized, AK-47s, AR-15s, M203 grenade launchers, hand grenades, IEDs, from these guys. They have indiscriminately attacked Mexican police and military personnel. They produce cannabis and methamphetamine with slave and child labor.

    But the question of legalizing cannabis, and thereby slashing gang funding and gaining tax revenues by selling their product, that idea is off the table. Instead, we make more of the guns that may well end up in enemy hands, we spend a few billion dollars to fund the latest narcowar, and we tell the kids that it's a gateway drug, and to just say no, and then we loosen our ties and step down from the podium and have a cold brew, or a stogie.

    And why don't we consider converting the black market into a taxed, regulated one? Because we wouldn't be able to handle the societal harms that would come with another legal drug. Because it's in Gil Kerlikowske's job description that he must oppose legalization of currently illegal drugs. Because there are lobbyists for the military industries, for alcohol, for tobacco, for fiber producers and processors, for pharmaceutical industries, but there is no weed lobby.

    All I'm saying is if maybe this relatively (to alcohol and tobacco and caffeine) safe recreational drug WASN'T forced onto the black market, if the difference between the cost to grow and the street price per gram funded education and interdiction of harder drugs, instead of the gangs we then must spend tax dollars to fight, maybe then we would be facing some "societal harms," but maybe they wouldn't be as bad as having thousands die from gunshot wounds and god damned decapitations.

    I hate politics so much.

  • by Asclepius99 (1527727) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:08PM (#31811224)
    Borrowing someone's cell phone is probably the luckiest you'd get with a law like this. What if you are planning to do something dangerous? You're not gonna borrow a cell phone and have them remember asked, you might just kill them. Not to mention that this just creates a huge black market for faked phones/phone faking equipment. It seems like this isn't going to do much but create a more dangerous situation that feeds money to people doing illegal things. If someone is going to get caught because of this system, I'm sure they're stupid enough that they would have been caught anyway.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:41PM (#31811488)

    You'd have to be doing fairly serious crime before adding abduction or murder to your rap sheet for the job becomes practical(and even if you are, it is probably cheaper to use corruption, or apply smaller quantities of violence more strategically.

    This action by the Mexican government is aimed directly at the cartels. They're in the "fairly serious" crime business. Abduction and murder are all in a day's work for the cartels. They murder police and judges on a regular basis and murder journalists who get too nosy on a semi-regular basis. Murdering someone for a cell phone would not be out of the question.

  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:49PM (#31811576) Journal

    Most of Mexico's problems would disappear if drugs were legal, and handled by prescription drug companies. No more black market. People could get their drugs from legal, regulated corporations just like getting any other drug, and Mexico would no longer have drug runners/cartels.

    IMHO.

    Please don't mod me down just cause you disagree.

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @07:03PM (#31812034)
    agreed. while mexico has to do something about it's crime problem, a pointless cell phone registry isn't a solution. it's just lip service.

    the real problem in mexico is corruption, but it's so embedded in their culture i can't ever see it changing.

  • by telomerewhythere (1493937) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @08:26PM (#31812562)

    Legalizing in the USA

    The real 800 pound gorilla in the room is why drugs that destroy one's own health are so desirable. Deal with that, and so many other problems are solved.

  • Re:Jews for Nerds! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by martas (1439879) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @08:29PM (#31812598)
    please don't feed the trolls
  • Re:Torn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @08:44PM (#31812676) Journal

    Most of Mexico's problems would disappear if drugs were legal, and handled by prescription drug companies. No more black market.

    If you had to get a prescription to get the drugs, there would still be a black market for people who couldn't get a prescription. If you legalize it, you go all the way, like with alcohol. There's not a black market for beer because it's sold off the shelf.

  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aquitaine (102097) <`sam' `at' `iamsam.org'> on Sunday April 11, 2010 @08:55PM (#31812756) Homepage

    So we all know that the Spaniards were probably the most brutal of all the Europeans tromping around the New World. That's understatement, too -- they made the English, French, and Dutch put together look like friendly, singing Disney animals. But that was 300+ years ago.

    Can you please explain why, six+ generations later, this means that those of Spanish descent deserve to be overthrown as a pre-requisite for progress? Because it sounds like you're about to make a 'they weren't there first' argument.

  • Re:Torn (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @09:33PM (#31812992)

    ...as far as I can glean from the leaked text

    Why do we find this acceptable?

  • If you say so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zogger (617870) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @09:51PM (#31813076) Homepage Journal

        If you doubt the corruption angle with drugs (which I guess is the basis of your reply, that that is "paranoid"? It's just data, man, look it up yourself, verification is a simple google search away, have at it, there have been tons of prosecuted cases over the years and all sorts of articles written about it, etc. Heck, read any article lately about the scene in mexico and they all mention how corrupt the government is there, and I sincerely doubt all this corruption magically stops exactly at the border.

    Oh, if you are wondering or making an allusion, nope, don't smoke pot or do any other drugs other than cheap coffee and some cheap cigars. I rarely even take an aspirin.

    I'm still in favor of legalizing it though, this prohibition "cure" just makes the situation much worse. The war on drugs was lost years ago, it will never work, and it has never been cost effective. Society is going to have to come up with something other than classifying some huge percentage of their population as criminals.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Monday April 12, 2010 @12:43AM (#31813886) Journal

    While you are right about how to get around it, your missing the long arm of the law point here.

    Until now, if a cop stopped you, you gave him your ID and went on your way. Now he gets to look at the phone you are carrying to see if it's yours or not. What, it's registered to someone other then who is on your ID, you must be doing something wrong to have a phone with fake credentials. Off to jail you go until we can figure out what it is.

    It's kind of like carrying a weapon but more prominent in society. If you are carrying a weapon without the proper credentials or the right to do so (this is Mexico), then you're automatically up to no good. The same goes for un-mis-registered phones now. The ancillary activities of some criminals are being used to harass all citizens in order to find potential criminals. Except now you can get a criminal record or record as a potential criminal by having a phone not registered to yourself.

  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Plunky (929104) on Monday April 12, 2010 @03:28AM (#31814534)

    Ever heard of Portugal [time.com]?

    What I find interesting in the portugese case is that probably its not the legalisation of the drugs that makes the difference, its the way that the establishment treats drug users that causes drug use to drop. Being offered treatment for your dependency is not going to glamorise that dependency at all, whereas keeping your habit out of sight because the man is going to come down on you like a ton o bricks is much more likely to be cool.

    "Hey man, I'm doing something that is not allowed! What you doin?"

  • by dontbgay (682790) on Monday April 12, 2010 @07:01AM (#31815228)

    I was just going to mod you down, but I think you're missing an important portion of this debate. Wouldn't the power companies give Americans conditions to meet before their power was shut off? Come on, I know it seems draconian to just disconnect their service but they were given an opportunity. One they ignored.

    So, from where I'm looking, they have 100% success. They said "register with our system or we'll cut you off". And they're doing just that. Whether or not the registration system is broken doesn't give them any reason to ignore it and not expect consequences. Just because you disagree with the speed limit, does that give you any latitude with law enforcement?

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