Mexico announces national mobile phone register

Mexico will start a national register of mobile phone users that will include fingerprinting all customers in an effort to catch criminals who use the devices to extort money and negotiate kidnapping ransoms, reports Reuters.

Under a new law published on Monday and due to be in force in April, mobile phone companies will have a year to build up a database of their clients, complete with fingerprints. The idea would be to match calls and messages to the phones' owners.

Hundreds of people are kidnapped in Mexico every year and the number of victims is rising sharply as drug gangs, under pressure from an army crackdown, seek new income, the article says.

Legislators who pushed the bill through Congress last year say there are around 700 criminal gangs in Mexico, some of them operating from prison cells, that use mobilw3 phones to extort ransom payments through kidnap victims.

Seems like a good idea until one considers that most of Mexico's 80 million mobile phones are prepaid handsets, which can be topped up with more minutes via vendors on street corners.