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Cellphones Communications Crime Government Privacy

Mexico Will Shut Down 25.9 Million Cell Phones 370

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 Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:41PM (#31810400)

    So far, only 69% have registered...

    So, the *majority* have registered, and a large number of the remaining know about it but don't trust the system? Sounds more or less succesful to me...

  • Re:Torn (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mindcontrolled ( 1388007 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:44PM (#31810432)
    Where I live, you gotta register your cellphone (or rather your SIM card) on purchase, using your national ID card. I am generally fine with the idea - under one provision: a decent constitution in combination with a functional constitutional court that regularly kicks the arse of some politico who wants to abuse the data for the sake of "anti-terrorism", "anti-childpornography" or whatever the buzzword of the day is. Thankfully, this seems to work around here, at least for now.
  • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @03:44PM (#31810434)
    This'll just spread the crime to include cell phone theft. Then the government will need to set up some program to keep track of stolen phones and make sure they're deactivated and all the mess that comes along with that.

    Even outside of the privacy concerns and other issues, this is a terrible idea that doesn't even approach solving the problem. It's a stupid ploy so that some asshat can claim they're trying to crack down on crime without really cracking down on crime.
  • by dAzED1 ( 33635 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:16PM (#31810774) Journal

    We don't live there. As I mentioned, we have these phones to prevent international roaming - meaning, we don't live there. I'm not going to move to Mexico just to have a cell phone there.

  • by TheGavster ( 774657 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:21PM (#31810818) Homepage

    The criminal use of another person's ID is by far the more terrifying. I would much rather have someone set up an unlicensed druggist's 2 doors down than for the police to batter down my door in the dark of night, with rules of engagement for dealing with a supposedly violent criminal. Much rather that someone else be given the opportunity to destroy their own life through drug abuse than for the police to either destroy me professionally with drug charges or physically with excessive force.

  • Re:Torn (Score:2, Interesting)

    by countertrolling ( 1585477 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:26PM (#31810864) Journal

    Considering the grip the drug cartels have on the balls of that place...

    You don't know nuthin'. The cartels are financed by American dollars, and run by American bosses. The corruption is equally bad on both sides of the border. And despite all this the murder rate is still worse in the states. And most of Mexico is perfectly safe.. So shitcan the bigotry. You don't want freedom. You want control.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:42PM (#31810998) Journal
    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.
  • Same Old Story (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Low Ranked Craig ( 1327799 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:45PM (#31811020)

    In an attempt to curb [Type_of_Crime] the government of [Country] has [Required_Registration || Restriction] of [Device || Devices]

    The net result of which has been to inconvenience and annoy honest citizens and not affect criminals at all since they don't follow the laws and working around [Required_Registration || Restriction] is trivially easy.

  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @04:55PM (#31811108) Homepage

    While 69% is a majority, it is still far from 100%.
    Their is still 25 Million phones unregistered

    How would you feel, if for example the US power suppliers ungraded their system and they had a few problems but 69% of Americans still had power afterward.
    more or less successful, right? The majority of Americans have power.

    A majority is not even close to success in many endeavors.

  • Re:Torn (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:29PM (#31811404)

    Let me put it this way: Are you really willing to put up with as much surveillance as the constitutional court will let the government get away with? The same people who wrote the failed data retention law are responsible for the EU directive [] which compels European countries to enact data retention laws. This directive is still in force and will be turned into law, skirting the constitution as closely as possible.

    ACTA will affect internet traffic, so it will also affect mobile communication: If there were no registration requirement, no three-strikes rules would be enforceable on mobile networks.

  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @05:38PM (#31811466) Journal
    On a related note, all the owners of ethernet controllers were asked to register with their real names too.
    Differently shocked ? Why ? Because we are now used of having a non-neutral wireless net, as opposed to a neutral wired one.
  • Re:Torn (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gwolf ( 26339 ) <[gro.flowg] [ta] [flowg]> on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:03PM (#31811668) Homepage

    I am sorry to tell you... but you are completely misinformed.

    Mexico, as most of Latin America, is a mostly mixed society - Roughly 80% of our society is mestizo (in all of Latin America, only Guatemala, Paraguay and Bolivia have a higher percentage of inhabitants who identify themselves as indigenous), which means they do not have clear indigenous cultural traces (i.e. language, beliefs, even group identification). Of course, there is a lot of syncretism in our society, which means we are the result as much from the imposed Spanish culture as from the remains of the (several different) indigenous cultures.

    Now, as for your asseverations: The land is not owned mostly by indigenous. And very few of the real landowners are indigenous - Even given that after the revolution (~1910-1925) there was a real redistribution of properties mainly in the 1930-1950s (Reforma Agraria). However, due to several shortsightings by the people in charge, the real result was the peasants never saw a better economy and are, to the day, miserable. And no, there is no point in bribing them, as they do not have any authority beyond their bits of land.

    But the drug lords are taking advantage of the situation. Given the poverty, they can offer better payment for growing more, um... interesting crops. And yes, sometimes it is done by talking. Sometimes it is just done by force.

    Now, the revolution did bring many interesting and IMO very positive changes, which endured for several decades. However, I feel the real spirit of the revolution died out by the 1960s, where corruption started skyrocketing, and when dissidency and social inclination started being prosecuted as if they were crimes. You can read lots about president Díaz Ordaz (1964-1970), Echeverría Álvarez (1970-1976) and López Portillo (1976-1982), regarding the students movement, the Tlatelolco massacre (a turning point for the country's history), the dirty war of the 1970s...

    And even with almost 50 years distance (and 30 years of open neoliberalism), we still see some solid social constructs in Mexico, which, although deteriorated, are clearly results of our revolutionary process.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:17PM (#31811740) Journal
    Oh, I totally believe that the cartels would murder someone for their cellphone if they needed to. They'd probably chop them up, dissolve the body in a vat of acid, and then leave the head on the steps of the police station, just for giggles.

    However, my argument is just that, whether you are a petty criminal or a serious one, murder is unlikely to be a pragmatic move.

    If you are a petty criminal of some kind, adding murder or abduction to your list of offences committed in the course of a particular job is unlikely to be worth it. The sentences are much harsher, and the police and public care more.

    If you are a cartel operative, you are organized crime. The family business, intense competitive environment, etc. In that context, murdering cops and judges is completely rational, those people have avowed themselves to be your enemies, you want to intimidate them. Journalists who are likely to provide useful intelligence are in a similar category. Joe Public, though, is only your enemy if you make him so.

    For organized crime to be truly entrenched in an area(rather than having to play the thankless "occupying army" game), it is extremely helpful for them to have some support in the community, and a sense(even among people who don't like them) that they won't fuck with you entirely arbitrarily. If Joe Everyman knows that you could kill him and his entire family; but won't as long as he doesn't cross you, he probably won't cross you. If, on the other hand, Joe Everyman knows that you just might kill him, or a member of his family, for nothing, at any time, he is more likely to adopt the fatalistic "fuck it, at least I'll take him down with me" collaborationist attitude. A sensible criminal doesn't want that. The state and army are riddled with corruption, and don't really know where their targets are; but, if it comes down to a straight firefight, the cartel bosses would lose. That is why they tend to be extremely ruthless about going after anybody who stands too firmly on the anticorruption issue; but also why they have no real incentive to piss off the public at large too much. An organization of any size, criminal or otherwise, leaves traces in the community. Part of security is making sure that the community sees it as in their interest to "know nothing about" what they actually do know if the authorities come knocking, much less embark on irrational "he killed my brother, I'll take him down if it means they kill me too" type crusades.

    Again, I'm sure that, at some point, if only just to fuck with the authorities, one of the cartels will grab a DA off the street in broad daylight, kill him with an angle grinder, and use his phone to coordinate drug deals for the next several days. However, I would strongly suspect that the vast majority of criminal cell phones among serious cartel types will be produced by fraud and corruption, rather than force, simply because it is cheaper and safer.

    People, and organizations, who are willing to employ murder as one strategy among many, for dealing with certain classes of situation, can go far. People who default to murder, even when much softer techniques are available, tend to make enemies. Making enemies is sometimes inevitable; but it is always risky. People who make enemies unnecessarily generally don't get to retire(even if the state is too feckless to find you, your competitors or your ambitious right-hand-man almost certainly aren't).
  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @06:45PM (#31811922)

    We have it in Spain as well, where I am a foreigner. Pretty much anything you do here requires your national ID card, and (being British) I don't have one. I use my passport for some things and my driving licence for others, and have yet to have any problems. Doesn't mean I like it - I accept that it's a cultural difference - but I wonder whether it would really be a nuisance to foreigners in Germany.

  • Re:Torn (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MaskedSlacker ( 911878 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @07:03PM (#31812038)

    I don't disagree with making drugs legal, but you clearly know nothing about Mexico.

    Your post is like saying the US's race problems would go away if they just got Universal Healthcare.

  • Re:Torn (Score:2, Interesting)

    by garaged ( 579941 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @07:07PM (#31812068) Homepage

    dont try to use common sense to respond to mexican issues.

    Militar ARE being paid a lot of monthly money from drug cartels, a few minutes in google could give enough clear hints (ammounts and names).

    100 yards from my house a 500 navy equivalent elements came and killed an important capo, in this city we have one of the most important militar base on the country, guess why no local element was used in this operation...

    in Mexico most rumors are actually true, we have a sick sense of humor to deal with adversity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2010 @07:14PM (#31812120)

    That or IMEI/SIM nr cloning. Such isnt too difficult. Set up few PCs networked together. One is connected to a radio ripped from an cell phone that listens in on the cellular traffic. Let the machines crunch through the insecure cellular phone encryption and after a short while you get list of imei/sim nr pairs ready to be used in a suitably modified cell phone.

  • Re:Nice protest. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Requiem18th ( 742389 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @10:08PM (#31813146)

    Be disappointed. I'm protesting by changing cell phone company to the one that promises not to shutdown the phones, voting with my wallet, putting my money where my mouth is etc, but most people I know are completely uninterested in doing anything that will bring any sort of discomfort into their lives.

    It dawned on me few years ago that the main problem with Mexico is not drug cartels or corrupt government but a total lack of confidence in your fellow citizens. We never get organized. We have nothing like neighbor associations, our very few civil associations are weak and irrelevant. We tend to do things our own way and only thrust ourselves, we deal with crime by shielding our windows and reinforcing our doors, we deal with police by avoiding/bribing them, we deal with criminals by cursing them.

    This is of course a vicious cycle. No thrust in government means no initiative to keep politicians accountable which leads to more corruption which leads to less trust in the authorities. It's a never ending cycle.

    For contrast is the fact that the most effective anti-criminal initiative in Mexico in last years has been the anonymous denouncing system. I mean, seriously, no other system has attracted more public cooperation than the ability to seek help from authorities without exposing yourself to them, just this should be enough to realize what a boneheaded law this is.

    As a side note, the government has been increasing the penalties for piracy in Mexico, then, it recently became a criminal offense instead of a civil infraction (a move you should be familiar with). While this is supposed to cut down the revenue stream from organized, commercial, pirate activity, I wonder if the result is not going to be something akin to the prohibition era in the US...

  • by slizz ( 822222 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @10:13PM (#31813178) Homepage
    I've been traveling in Mexico for the last two months. I have never been more surprised by a country: the incredible ancient prehispanic and colonial architecture, beautiful landscapes, and modern, friendly cities. The border is horrible - one hundred miles south of the border (I visited Monterrey and Cd. Chihuahua) is beautiful and safe. Look up pictures of Zacatecas and Guanajuato - amazing. Corruption and drug use are a big issue, but tourists are safe (except from using your credit card at sketchy clubs to buy drinks... whoops). To me, Mexico feels like a country rapidly moving towards the first world, not the other way around. In the US, we really only hear the bad stuff, but doesn't begin to sum up feeling in this country - everyone I've met seems optimistic, if not somewhat bitter about government corruption. Also, here is a very important and recognized recent article from the Mexican magazine Proceso, with an interview with the second in command Mexican drug trafficking: [] Check it out.
  • by Requiem18th ( 742389 ) on Sunday April 11, 2010 @10:34PM (#31813262)

    I'd be the last one to suggest Mexico doesn't have problems but, Tijuana, like Juarez is a special case, that's kinda like equating the whole of U.S. with the worse parts of Detroit.

  • Re:Torn (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AmigaMMC ( 1103025 ) on Monday April 12, 2010 @12:40AM (#31813874)
    In Italy is worse than that, if you are a foreign tourist you cannot buy a SIM. Simple as that. To buy one you are required to provide your social security number card. I didn't have mine a few years ago while visiting and I had to return with my mother so that she could purchase it for me on her name.
  • by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Monday April 12, 2010 @02:02AM (#31814194) Journal

    The Mexican governemnt has failed time and time again to combat this problem, in no large part thanks to their massive curruption problem

    Yup, people in the USA won't believe how deep corruption has a play in Mexican drugs. Some people even assert that the current president *is* helping a specific cartel by throwing the army to other cartels.

    However I believe the main problem of Mexico's drug war is the fact that drugs are illegal in the USA. When USA makes drug legal, the drug cartels will end.

    Back when the Mexican drug consumption was being discussed, I argued that it would be better (in Mexico) to pass a law that allowed drug to be (i) transported and (ii) developped (harvested or otherwise). In this way, the Mexican problem would be mainly finished and it would only be a problem of crossing the USA frontier into the "illegal grounds" of the USA.

    Drug consumption is not a criminal problem, it is a health issue and it should be tackled as that (e.g. AA groups).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12, 2010 @02:38AM (#31814346)

    Wait, are you saying that they aren't essential in the sense that we don't need them to live our lives? Because that's certainly not why millions in immigrants illegally cross the border into the United States trying to get away from the lack of essential liberties. They want the freedom to live their lives in peace, free from encroachments on their liberty. In that sense all liberties are essential.

    That lack of liberty is also why their economy stinks. Nobody is free to accomplish anything without having a roving gang burn them alive and take what they have. The drug cartels are free because they have more firepower.

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Monday April 12, 2010 @09:20AM (#31816028) Journal

    If Mexico wants to solve all their problems, they should get rid of America. America funds countless drug organisation around the globe, funding even the terrorists it is fighting with its population craze for drugs.

    It is amusing. One hand funds anti-drug campaigns that end up hurting foreign farmers, and the other gives those farmers a highly lucrative source of income. Meanwhile the US improsons more people then anyone else, including far larger nations, on sheer numbers with absolutely zero effect on its drug use.

    You got to wonder how it can be that the US has the most expensive war on drugs and yet drugs flow so freely. Corruption? It is known the CIA, a government body has sponsored the drug trade. Are they perhaps still doing it?

    Mexico should just close the border. 100%. Nobody in or out. That would solve the problem really fast. But of course, you can't stop the free-trade of drugs.

    Funny really. When you are on another continent.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito