GISWatch: Mexico should legislate on the use of unwarranted government surveillance

Author's name: 
Korina Velázquez Ríos
Mexico

On 14 April, we presented GISWatch 2014 – Communications surveillance in the digital age in the Chamber of Deputies of Mexico. This was possible thanks to the organisations SonTusDatos and APC.

The meeting on the legislative session aimed to warn of the need to update the legal framework to establish clear rules on the use of spyware and protect personal data in monitoring procedures conducted by the Mexican government.

We invited a group of specialists in human rights and national security and information technology to propose a best practice guide and sanctions to restrict surveillance activities and unjustified generalised intelligence.

It was stressed that while Mexico holds the presidency of the Alliance for Open Government, the government lacks transparency and accountability in the purchase and use of monitoring software. Information on how much is spent, what it is spent on, who monitors what and with what purpose is not published, despite the fact that Mexico is one of the five countries with the highest spending on surveillance technology, along with Russia, Syria and China, according to Privacy International.

Complaints from civil society organisations have already been filed to the Federal Institute of Access to Information and Protection of Data, because FinFisher malware was found on their computers.

Surveillance should be accompanied by transparency. However, the government of Mexico has asked Google, Twitter and Yahoo for information on about 1,177 people and nobody knows for what purpose. This has an impact on the vulnerable population, especially with events as unfortunate as the forced disappearance of the Ayotzinapa students in 2014.

Government espionage in this country is a sensitive issue because it is not always clear whether the authorities are acting to protect the interests of national security or if they go beyond their obligations and begin to violate the human rights of citizens.

Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen the legal framework with the adoption of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance and to establish legal remedies to protect citizens from possible arbitrariness by government and ensure individual freedoms.

Korina Velázquez is co-founder of SonTusDatos in Mexico. She is a consultant to governments in Latin America in public policies for Digital Agendas, innovation, and e-government. Trainer at the Organization of American States (OAS). Co-author of the GISWatch report on Mexico. More info: http://korinavelazquez.com/
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