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Somebody’s watching me…

2 January 2008

Another reason to run for the border:

Privacy International, a UK privacy group, and the U.S.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center have put together a world map of surveillance societies, rating various nations for their civil liberties records.

Both the U.S. and the UK are colored black for “endemic surveillance,” as are Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Russia, China and Malaysia.

…In terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the US is the worst ranking country in the democratic world. In terms of overall privacy protection the United States has performed very poorly, being out-ranked by both India and the Philippines

Mexico was not included in the Electronic Privacy Information Center study, but the 2006 Country Report from Privacy International has a full report on Mexican privacy laws:

The Constitution protects the right to privacy, which traditionally includes the inviolability of the domicile and correspondence. The Constitution protects the person, his/her family, documents or possessions, and the confidentiality of correspondence; the immunity can only be broken by written order of the competent authority (Article 16).

…Currently, two proposals for Constitutional amendment have been proposed. The first, presented before the Senate, adds several paragraphs to article 16 of the Federal Constitution, expressly acknowledging the right to personal data protection as a fundamental right. The proposal passed the Senate during the last legislative session, and was introduced before the House of Representatives; however, the bill is still awaiting approval. The second proposal was introduced in March 2007. The bill modifies article 73 of the Constitution in order to grant to Congress the power to legislate on personal data protection held by private entities.

There is not yet a comprehensive data protection law in Mexico. Provisions in the Federal Consumer Protection Law, however, place restrictions on direct marketing and credit reporting agencies. The first Mexican E-Commerce law took effect on May 29, 2000. …

The Federal Law of Transparency and Access to Public Government Information … guarantees access to all interested individuals to the information in possession of the three branches (legislative, executive and judicial) of the Federal Union of Mexico; the constitutional autonomous entities … the Banco de México, and the Instituto Federal Electoral, or the entities with legal autonomy (such as IFAI or the Auditoría Superior de la Federación); as well as any other federal entity. This law is compulsory for all federal public officials.

There are administrative and judicial instances to enforce the law regarding access to government public information and personal data. In order to guarantee the minimum rights written down in the law, there are procedures to access and correct personal data, as well as to appeal for review, in both cases before an administrative instance. The data subject can use the Juicio de Amparo a safe, fast and effective procedure for persons to safeguard their constitutional individual, or an ordinary civil procedure before a court.

Is there government intrusion? Of course. The IFE card database is worrisome (as a single-point of reference, there is potential for its misuse as a way of tracking citizens), but that does not apply to us foreigners. As things stand now, tax and bank records have no ties to immigration records (I know — even illegal aliens can go to the labor courts and no questions are ever asked about their immigration status).

No government agency is taking fingerprints, biometric measurements or taking any other intrusive measures against foreign residents. The only intrusion I can think of off-hand is for your drivers’ license, where you need to get a blood test (your blood-type is shown on Mexican licenses).

Yes, the government spies on dissidents (and politicians spy on each other) like everywhere, but for sheer nosiness, it’s not the government, but the neighbors who want to know your business.

And, besides,  Mexicans have a sure-fire extra-legal defense against spys and snoops: San Ramon Nonato.

San Ramon Nonato, a thirteenth-century Catalan preacher, was captured by the Moors, and wouldn’t shut up — so the Moors put a padlock through his lips. Ramon learned his lesson.

Officially he’s the patron of difficult childbirth (he was born posthumously — thence his name, which translates as “No-Name Ray”) but in the Metropolitan Cathedral the shrine to No-Name Ray is covered in padlocks. Reminders not so much of Ray’s mouthiness, but a request that the saint — who learned his lesson — put the holy hex on those who don’t speak only the word of God.

There is a nice prayer to San Ramon, that basically translates:

Oh San Ramon —

You preached the word of God,

and were martyred with a padlock through your lips for your trouble.

Please ask God to tell people to mind their own business and  tell the liars

to shut the fuck up!

Now, if we could just find a patron saint to invoke against spammers.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 2 January 2008 11:55 pm

    Jeez Richard – which ‘Mexico’ are/were you living in? No intrusion in to the lives of foreign residents? No biometrics? No immigration/Banking cross reference?

    What in hell have you been smoking??

    To get a bank account here in Mexico you need, at very least, to have an FM3.

    Issuance of an FM3 is conditional on the attachment of fingerprints to the application (and the document itself) and an entry in to the National Registry of Foreigners.

    The penalty for failure to renew one’s FM3 before expiry, is 10 x the daily minimum wage in DF (about MN$45) for each day the document has ceased to be valid.

    The penalty for failure to inform the INM of changes to one’s address or visa status is, potentially, deportation. The INM reserves the right to send their own police force round to your registered address to ensure you are in compliance with the conditions of your visa.

    Drivers licenses are issued at state level – just as in the USA. In Tamaulipas, one need only give name, address, copy of visa (if foreign) or Credencial de Elector (if Mexican) and submit to having one’s photo taken – no blood tests, blood group marking, biometrics, nada.

  2. 3 January 2008 1:05 pm

    Of course, you’d be fingerprinted for a residency permit… but your eyeball scan and whatnot isn’t done… and — this is the good part — the Mexican government isn’t particularly efficient. In theory, your various records COULD tie to each other, but c’mon… nobody’s really interested in following up the trail. I’ve yet to hear of anyone actually having INM show up to check their residency — or even work permits (unless your employer has pissed the wrong bureaucrat off!).

    Compared to the U.S. and Britain (not to mention Malaysia or China) foreigners and citizens aren’t much hassled by the state in the normal course of things. You’ve written on the absurdities of Mexicans (and Brits) crossing into the U.S. just to shop… geeze, overstay that visa and you get tossed in the slammer.

    I’m familiar with Coahuila licenses, and you are of course, correct.

  3. 4 January 2008 7:14 pm

    Well, regarding the police visits – hear this.

    In the last four years I have been visited TWICE by the INM Police who came to my declared place of work to verify that I was there and doing what I said I was doing.

    You’re right though – inefficiencies mean that there isn’t much to fear in the dots ever being joined up (as in other countries).

    Once my naturalization comes through I’ll be like any other guero here…

  4. 22 May 2008 2:12 pm

    I’m afraid Iv’e been most irrisoinsible and am very worried about what will happen…

    On arrival to Mexico four years ago I applied for an FM3- and haven’t renewed it since.
    This means I have been living here in Mexico illegally for 3 years.

    I would like to know what I can expect, how much I will have to pay to get myself out of trouble (an enormous sum no doubt- can I pay in instalments?) and how best to renew it again?


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