Argentina Orders Telecoms To Create A Permanent Database Of All Mobile Phone Users

from the is-that-a-tracking-device-in-your-pocket,-or-are-you-just-glad-to-see-me? dept

The Argentine government has announced the creation of a new national register of everyone using mobile phones in the country (original in Spanish). An article on Ambito.com says that discussions between the government and telecom companies have been underway for some months, and last week the scheme was finally unveiled. According to the Joint Resolution No. 6 of the Ministries of Security and Communications (original in Spanish), the mobile phone companies will be responsible for developing, operating and managing the system "at their own cost." In practice, this is likely to mean that the extra expenses will be passed on to customers. The personal data must be stored in a "safe, audited and permanent" manner, and yes, the records will be available to the authorities.

The justification for the national register is to combat theft: according to a report in La Nación, 5000 mobile phones are stolen every day (original in Spanish.) To put that in context, another article in La Nación (original in Spanish) says that there are around 60 million mobile numbers in use, which seems rather high given that Argentina's total population is 42 million. Clearly, some people have two or more phones.

Even one is a problem, for reasons that Edward Snowden and Andrew "bunnie" Huang pointed out earlier this year: a mobile phone is "the perfect tracking device." The new register may indeed help tackle the theft of mobile phones in Argentina. But it will also create a powerful and dangerous new resource that the authorities will surely be unable to resist dipping into for other purposes.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 16 Nov 2016 @ 12:46am

    "Clearly, some people have two or more phones."

    Yes, this happens. I have 3 personally, though obviously I only tend to use one at a time (the others are for company use and for times when I'm travelling / at concerts etc and don't wish to damage my main phone). I also have 5 SIM cards - personal, work, a UK one for when I'm over there, one from a different network when I used to have a pay as you go phone, and one I used in emergency when my main one got lost.

    Once you factor in business and other uses that might require different contact numbers, it's not an astounding figure. Especially if the phones are not tied to a contract and there's an extra charge for getting the same number assigned to the new SIM - some people will just pay less for a different number and inform their contacts of the change.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Glyn Moody, 16 Nov 2016 @ 1:14am

      Re:

      Interesting - thanks.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2016 @ 6:30am

      Re:

      Of course you know that US courts have held that having more than one phone is an indication that you are a drug dealer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Oninoshiko (profile), 16 Nov 2016 @ 9:42am

        Re: Re:

        *Of course you know that US courts have held that having more than one phone is an indication that you are a drug dealer.*

        Along with using electricity, using heat, having cash, and (in true Michael Palin style) "'e looks like one." If the cops want to say they have a reason for suspecting you of dealing drugs, they're given so much alarming leeway it really doesn't matter.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2016 @ 5:23am

    Mobile phone numbers are not just for phones. Ltd tablets. OnStar enabled vehicles are cellular devices, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2016 @ 6:24am

    Re: garage door repair

    Does Argentina want a database of all garage door openers now too?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Nov 2016 @ 6:29am

    Looking at it backwards

    The new register may indeed help tackle the theft of mobile phones in Argentina. But it will also create a powerful and dangerous new resource that the authorities will surely be unable to resist dipping into for other purposes.

    More accurately:

    This will create a powerful and dangerous new resource that the authorities will surely be unable to resist dipping into. Oh, and it might be used to track stolen phones, that too.

    That the records are permanent is a huge red flag indicating that this isn't about stolen phones at it's core. If a phone is stolen knowing where it was last week or last month isn't going to do you much good, the only thing you need to know is where it is now. Knowing where it was in the past is great for tracking movement of the owner though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 16 Nov 2016 @ 3:16pm

    But Does It Have To Be Nothing But The Truth?

    I wonder if these mandatory-record-keeping laws make it clear that the logs should have only valid data in them? What if, for every record of an actual user, you generated 10 random rubbish records containing bits of info from valid records? So any search by the authorities will be swamped by these rubbish records, making the database useless?

    (The rubbish would have to be carefully generated, so that it cannot be easy to automatically filter it out from the valid data.)

    Would that be considered a violation of the record-keeping law?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2016 @ 5:46pm

      Re: But Does It Have To Be Nothing But The Truth?

      Maybe illegal, maybe not. But what incentive do companies have to increase their data generation and storage needs tenfold?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 16 Nov 2016 @ 10:20pm

        Re: what incentive do companies have to increase their data generation and storage needs tenfold?

        How many extra $200 hard drives will it take?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stephen, 18 Nov 2016 @ 2:32am

    ...a mobile phone is "the perfect tracking device."

    Unless you're a Predator drone trying to kill a terrorist who has given his mobile phone to somebody else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.