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.