Proposed Mexican Telecom Law Would Be a Disaster for Internet Freedom
In Mexico City last week, protestors formed a human chain to demonstrate their opposition to Ley de Telecomunicaciones y Radiodifusión, the telecommunications and broadcasting law that President Enrique Peña Nieto introduced at the end of March. The protest came on the heels of a Global Day of Action Against Censorship in Mexico and a March Against Silence which drew thousands of protestors.
"Ley Telecom," which supporters pass off as a set of much-needed reforms to Mexico's telecommunications sector, is a leap in the wrong direction for freedom of expression and privacy. EFF has joined with Mexican civil society, as well as international organizations, such as La Quadrature du Net and Article 19, in addressing a letter to Mexico's Congress that expresses our opposition to the telecommunications bill and shows our support for free expression in Mexico.
It's bad for privacy: The bill mandates that telecommunication companies retain all customers' communication data for 12 months. This retention mandate will impact millions of ordinary users, compromising online anonymity which is crucial for whistle-blowers, investigators, journalists, and those engaging in political expression. The bill also seeks to provide real-time information (including geographic GPS data) to any public official to whom authority is delegated. As Greg Epstein writes, "This section of the bill functions completely outside of the judicial system, requiring no [court order] on data requests. The bill includes no requirements on how personal data is to be protected or used once it is collected by authorities." This violates international standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the OAS’s Joint Declaration on Surveillance Programs and Their Impact on Freedom of Expression, and the 13 International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.
It's bad for free expression: Under this bill, Internet service providers may block access to certain content, applications, or services at the specific request of a simple authority. This provision violates the prohibition of prior censorship established in Article 13 of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. Moreover, the bill seeks to turn ISPs into Internet cops. ISPs are uniquely placed to exert an unprecedented level of censorship and surveillance since Internet users' most valuable information are transmitted through their services. Such new measures, that seek Internet companies to deter infringement, give telecom companies powerful incentives to surveil their customers.
It's not what Mexicans want: In March 2013 the Mexican Senate accepted a petition with over two hundred thousand signatures supporting a proposed law that emphasized increasing access to the Internet. The petition discussed the public's right to information and the importance of publicly accessible points of access such as libraries and schools. The drafters of Ley Telecom ignored this petition in favor of its attacks on privacy and free speech.
EFF is proud to support ContingenteMX, Internet Para Todos, Red de Defensa de los Derechos Digitales, Rancho Electronico, and Internetlibre.mx in opposing this bill and will keep a close eye on future developments.
More information (in Spanish):
- Technical proposal on secondary regulation of telecommunications and internet by ContingenteMX
- Comentarios de la Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales a la iniciativa de Ley de Telecomunicaciones
- Letter of International Support, in Defense of Freedom of Expression and Internet Freedom in Mexico.