Mexico Enacts Online Surveillance Legislation
By a nearly unanimous vote, the Mexican legislature has decided to allow online surveillance of its citizens. The law provides police with the ability to see people’s data access in real time and without their knowledge. This means that the stakes for protecting your privacy online have become higher than they’ve been before. According to some Internet privacy advocates, however, not being in Mexico isn’t necessarily any type of shield against being monitored in this way.
The Mexican law has been described by Internet privacy experts the Electronic Frontier Foundation as being full of ways that it could potentially be abused. The law allows the police to get very invasive access to the surfing habits of users and, because of that, these powers could be utilized in ways that are unethical, at best and oppressive at worst. Privacy and electronic communications experts have characterized the bill as being against the human rights of the individuals being monitored.
The Mexican government’s law may be invasive, but Internet and mobile phone users are already being tracked in myriad ways that they’re likely not even aware of. For instance, a German politician recently found out and published the information that his cell phone carrier had on him. The information was distressing, to say the least. A detailed record of conversations, when he was connected, where he was when he connected and much more are all cataloged at the cell phone provider’s offices. In total, the inquiry into the data that his phone company had about him was comprised of almost 36,000 facts.
The Mexican law is already the target of human right advocates, who are exploring ways to challenge it. They are also advocating that Mexican citizens request all of their personal data form their cell phone providers, so that they can see what type of information these companies are keeping about them.
There are ways that online activity can be concealed. For instance, VPN services encrypt information so that, even if it is being monitored in transit, it cannot be read by people spying on the connection. VPN services also camouflage the IP address of users and, because of that, they make it nearly impossible to track online activity. For people in Mexico, using a VPN service may prove the most secure way to conduct their business on the Internet because, as is the case with cellular phone providers, communications may be being monitored.