Mexico ramps up surveillance to fight crime, but controls lax
By Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein and Christine Murray
MEXICO CITY Oct 12 (Reuters) - Government surveillance requests are gathering pace in Mexico, raising concerns about lack of oversight in a country plagued by corruption and collusion between security forces and criminal gangs.
Last year, Mexican mobile operators fielded more than 55,000 requests from authorities for information on citizens' calls, messages, and location data, nearly 25 percent higher than in 2013, according to industry figures obtained by Reuters.
Mexico's government has been mired in a decade-long war against drug cartels and has used surveillance to fight their trafficking, extortion and kidnapping operations.
However, corruption is a daily battle in Mexico. Mobile phone companies and privacy activists worry the system is full of holes and that a new telecoms law risks giving the wrong people the right to ask for sensitive personal information.
"There's no real control of who can request it," said Fernando Belaunzaran, a politician running for leader of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). "You've got corruption, and the police are infiltrated by organized crime ... Just who is getting their hands on this information?"
Edward Snowden's leak of U.S. National Security Agency documents in 2013 stoked debate about surveillance globally, and particularly how much power governments should have to snoop on their citizens and how they should be held accountable.
President Enrique Pena Nieto has described corruption as a cultural problem in Mexico, and the jailbreak of notorious drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in July highlighted the problem of collusion with crime bosses. Prison officials and members of Mexico's intelligence agency Cisen have been charged over the escape.
Mexican federal and state agencies also spent more on eavesdropping software from Italian company Hacking Team than any other country last year, documents leaked online show. Continuación...