Mexico’s Government has fought an uphill battle for security since President Felipe Calderón’s decision in 2006 to combat the country’s drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) directly. While some have argued that the spike in violence over the past six years is an indication that DTOs are getting desperate, a sign that they are weakening, others counter that destabilizing Mexico’s DTOs is creating more harm than good. In any case, the Mexican electorate, especially in cities that have borne the brunt of the violence, is justifiably growing weary of being caught in a triangular crossfire of criminals, criminal rivals, and security forces, especially in a context where trust in municipal and state government has generally been low.

Calderón’s working security strategy, articulated in the Fifth State of the Nation Address in September 2011, consists of three points: 1. confront and subdue criminals, 2. strengthen security and justice institutions, and 3. reconstruct Mexico’s social fabric. Calderón has stressed the latter point as the most important, and has emphasized the critical role of education and employment to create alternative opportunities to a life of crime. Given Mexico’s robust civil society and avid use of social media tools, our project will study how the government weaves these platforms into its ‘social fabric’ strategy. We will explore the nexus between government, social media, and Mexican civil society on security issues.

March 3, 2012
#LeyGeolocalización: the Security-Privacy Fight Heats Up 

A consistently debated duality in policy, in the information age more than ever, is the delicate balancing act between security and privacy. As anyone who’s examined Internet policy, for example, will know, the question is neither easy nor clear-cut. What’s more important – preserving a completely open Internet or protecting users against cybersecurity threats? How private is our data, and who is sharing it with whom (a clear issue with the recent protest over Google’s new privacy policy, and Twitter’s decision to sell archived tweets to marketing companies)? Of course, the dynamic has clearly applied to offline security concerns as well for a long time, fairly recently debated in the United States after the US PATRIOT Act was signed into law. In Mexico, this issue has recently erupted with the recent passage of a telecommunications bill in Congress, drawing protest online and offline. SoMe enVivo is interested to track the debate and determine the dynamic between online debate and offline action, and how Mexico’s government is responding to the outcry.

Following the Apodaca prison breakout and murders, Mexico’s lower congressional chamber passed a bill that would bar the use of cell phones in prisons. The bill also included a provision to cancel the National Registry of Mobile Telephone Users (RENAULT) database, a database designed to track criminal use of mobile phones. Authorities took action to cancel telephone service to those who opted not to register in the database, but this move was struck down by a judge in 2010. Now IFAI has requested that the data collected by RENAULT be destroyed to protect the consumers’ private information. Content analysis on the topic in Twitter shows divided opinion, with some users declaring the move to be a waste of money, others framing it as privacy protection, and others questioning if elites are trying to hide something stored in the data.

The bill also included a provision to grant police warrantless access to mobile phone users’ real-time geographic location. Supporters of the bill argued it would help improve security by providing the government more information about calls linked to kidnappings, extortions, and other crimes. For example, if a person is kidnapped, police could use the information to trace the victim’s journey and location, or trace the source of extortion calls. However, many are deeply concerned about the law’s reach into citizens’ personal data and have protested that the law is unconstitutional and violates legal human rights protections. The debate has been raging on Twitter under the #LeyGeolocalización hashtag. As Katitza Rodriguez, a Global Voices blogger, points out, the provision creates numerous opportunities for abuse, given its highly sensitive nature. She recommends taking a look at data that German politician and privacy campaigner Malte Spitz released to raise awareness of data collected by mobile phone providers. The government will be able to fine telecommunications carriers that do not comply with information requests, and according to FocoPrendio, can ask companies to block signals that they consider to be suspicious. The legislation is pending approval by President Calderón.


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