government purchase data on Mexico’s 65 million registered Voters
Sale of Mexican voter data raises
Story by : CR Staff
05/01/03: (Guadalajara Reporter) A probe has been launched into how
the Atlanta-based corporation ChoicePoint Inc. was able to purchase
data on Mexico’s 65 million registered voters as well as six million
licensed drivers in Mexico City.
According to an investigation carried out by the Mexico City newspaper
Milenio, ChoicePoint was commissioned by the U.S. government to obtain
Mexican legislators want President Vicente Fox to ask his U.S.
counterpart for what reason the U.S. government needs this
ChoicePoint is the only data-gathering company that specializes in
acquiring information on foreign nationals in general and Latinos in
According to Milenio, low-ranking Mexican government employees
routinely sell electronic information to data-gathering groups in a
clandestine manner and pocket the proceeds.
ChoicePoint also offers information on 90 percent of large
corporations operating in Mexico, disclosing data on names of leading
executives, phone numbers, electronic systems and levels of
This surveillance of Latin Americans began September 25, 2001, exactly
two weeks after the terrorist attacks. On that date the U.S.
Department of Justice awarded ChoicePoint a 67-million dollar contract
for providing information on Mexico and other Latin countries. Though
the contract expires July 31, 2005, the government enriched
Choice-Point to the tune of another 11 million dollars on April 8,
James Lee, a spokesman for the company, defended ChoicePoint's
activities on grounds that its data-gathering was a valuable tool in
the fight against terrorism and organized crime. Lee declared that
information obtained by his company "can be used in any type of
criminal investigation, whether it involves terrorism or some other
type of crime. It is useful in identifying suspicious individuals and
in some cases it can even pinpoint their whereabouts."
These protestations fell on deaf ears in Mexico. Raul Carranca, a
well-known jurist, said that ChoicePoint's purchase of names in the
Federal Electoral Register and of drivers' licenses constituted an
invasion of Mexico's sovereignty. He added that under the Federal
Penal Code an offender could receive up to 12 years in prison for
damaging, destroying or illegally extracting data from a government
informational system for reasons of personal gain.
Particularly biting were the comments of columnist Marcela Gomez Zalce.
In Acentos, her widely-read column, Gomez Zalce expressed the opinion
that data obtained by ChoicePoint would end up in the hands of the
CIA, FBI and DEA. As for the protestations of such parliamentary
groups as National Action Party and the formerly ruling Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI) that they would move toward protecting the
privacy of Mexicans, she said that this was a classic case of covering
the well after the baby has drowned -- Spanish version of
"locking the stable door after the horse has been stolen."
In addition to Mexico, ChoicePoint's shadow has fallen over Brazil,
Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and
Nicaragua. However, the company has discontinued its role in
Argentina, due to lack of demand and a strict new law relating to
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