Journalist Marcela Turati, human rights defender Ana Lorena Delgadillo, and co-founder of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, Mercedes Mimi Doretti, were illegally spied on by federal authorities in Mexico through their use of their phones between 2015 and 2016.
To spy on them, the authorities demanded that the telephone companies provide them with data and information on the geographical location in real time of the phones of these three women, based on the Federal Law on Telecommunications and Broadcasting (LFTR) approved in 2014 during the government. by Enrique Peña Nieto and that included a chapter that obliges companies to collaborate with authorities by collecting and having private and sensitive information of its clients available.
The Inai – the institute responsible for guaranteeing data protection in Mexico – had the opportunity to refute that law in the Supreme Court and try to defend the privacy of citizens against the risk of a massive, indiscriminate and disproportionate government surveillance. The Inai did not. The law came into force, with everything and the chapter that allows the intervention of private communications.
With the case of Turati, Delgadillo and Doretti we have another confirmation of the arbitrariness that allows laws that threaten the private life of citizens, which are poorly designed and do not have judicial controls neither citizen regulation nor transparency.
The Attorney General’s Office (now the Attorney General’s Office) “used the tools to combat organized crime to violate privacy, intimacy, security, communications and criminalize those who from different spheres sought justice, truth and the right to information”, different civil society organizations denounced on November 24, 2021, in response to the news that Turati, Delgadillo and Doretti were spied on.
Turati, Delgadillo and Doretti they discovered they had been the object of espionage when they reviewed part of the judicial file of the massacre of 196 people in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, whose bodies were found in clandestine graves in 2011. Part of the file was made transparent by a judgment of the Supreme Court in favor of Delgadillo and his organization for the defense of victims, the Foundation for Justice and the Democratic Rule of Law. In the file, in volume 221, these three women appear related in an investigation of kidnapping and organized crime.
The PGR “requested in an ‘extra-urgent’ way information from the companies on all calls (between February 2015 and April 2016), to access all telephone records, the messages that originated and received on their phones, as well as to its geolocation ”, denounces the communiqué issued by civil organizations published on November 24.
This espionage left “a clear message: that —as the journalist John Gibler says— in Mexico it is more dangerous to investigate a crime than to commit it”, wrote Turati in The Washington Post.
Today, two new reforms against privacy, intimacy and the protection of citizens’ personal data are about to enter into force. These reforms will oblige all citizens of legal age, even if they do not have economic activity, to be integrated into the Federal Taxpayers Registry (RFC) and grow the gigantic database with sensitive information and biometric data held by the SAT, the tax collection office. The reforms will also allow the SAT to use geolocation tools to geographically position the domiciles of taxpayers and create a “fiscal geographic map”.
The Inai has the obligation to defend us, to go to Court and present its rejection of these reforms. He already did it against the 2020 reform that allows the SAT profit from our sensitive personal data and, in 2021, against the biometric data registry of all mobile phone users. The consequences of not protecting our private life against arbitrariness are extremely serious and sometimes irreversible. The case of Turati, Delgadillo and Doretti confirms this again.
Editor of El Economista online
Journalist. Since 2010 he has edited the digital version of El Economista in Mexico City. Master in Transparency and Protection of Personal Data from the University of Guadalajara. He specializes in telecommunications and information technology law. His personal blog is Economicón.