Mexican Supreme Court Finds Cellphone Registry Unconstitutional
Mexico’s Supreme Court voted to terminate the unconstitutional creation of a national cellphone user registry with biometric data (PANAUT), which was proposed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration. The final decision comes as a relief to the more than 120 million end-users who would have had to cover the costs of collecting 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 PANAUT initiative was originally ratified by the Senate in April 2021, billed as a tool to help combat kidnapping, extortion and other crimes by making it more difficult for criminals to remain anonymous when purchasing mobile phones. Under this bill, the registry would have charged America Movil, AT&T and other telecommunication carriers with collecting consumers’ data, including fingerprints and or eye biometrics and submit them to the Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT). According to Mexico’s Internet Association, undertaking this initiative would have cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars to realize.
The biometric information gathered by this registry would have been available to law enforcement upon request, but lacked the adequate countermeasures to safeguard consumers’ data. This negligence was highlighted and cited by organizations, including the IFT, as grounds to suspend the proposal last year. It proved to be a fundamental focal point to senators, the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (INAI) and other challengers who argued that the registry was unconstitutional for violating user privacy.
Ultimately, nine supreme court justices would rule for the complete and total invalidity of the decree while the two remaining justices voted in favor of partial invalidation, a landslide win in favor of end-users, telecommunication companies and the IFT. The most outspoken justice, Minister Norma Piña, proposed to annul the creation of the registry on the grounds that it violated user’s inherent right to intimacy, privacy and protection of personal data under the constitution. The IFT, which had requested the registry be suspended, did not immediately have a comment as of this publication.