Mexico's Senate approves creation of biometric cellphone registry

MEXICO CITY, April 13 (Reuters) - Mexico’s Senate approved on Tuesday the creation of a registry to store millions of cell phone users’ biometric data in a bid to crack down on kidnapping and extortion.

The reform to the federal telecommunications law was approved with 54 votes in favor, 49 against and 10 abstentions, a Senate representative said. Lawmakers were still discussing whether to make modifications.

The legislation, which had already passed in the lower house, aims to counter crime by requiring telecoms companies to collect customer data, including fingerprints or eye biometrics, for a national registry managed by Mexico’s telecoms regulator, the IFT.

Lawmakers in support of the registry, including from President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s MORENA party, have said it would be harder for criminals to remain anonymous when purchasing new phone lines, which can currently be sold at convenience stores without registration.

Rights groups have argued the new reform is an invasion of privacy and could lead people to be exploited by bad actors and potentially wrongly convicted of crime. (Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Sam Holmes)