Every semester SURCLA presents regular seminars on topics of interest to students of Spanish and Latin American Studies, as well as a series of documentary screenings. See "Latest Events" for upcoming talks and screenings.

SURCLA Seminar | Sensor Media, Privacy, and State Surveillance in Mexico: The Case of the Geolocalisation Law

29 April, 2014

In recent times, Mexico has emerged as a striking, if not limit case of the sensor society — most notably in the networks of motion-sensing technologies that detect and alert the movement of migrants across its northern borders into the United States. In this paper, we discuss a distinct and significant Mexican case that has as yet received little attention internationally — the Geolocalization Law ratified by the Supreme Court in January 2014.

The Geolocalization Law (Ley de Geolocalización) was passed by the Mexican congress in September 2011. Its aim was to consolidate and fortify the existing provisions requiring telecommunications providers to make available their phone records and data to police and security agencies, for purposes of law enforcement. In particular, it extended existing provisions to require telecommunications carriers to make geolocal data, gathered through cellular mobile devices and networks, available to agencies — hence the title of the law.

The Gelocalization law enjoyed considerable support from lawmakers and some activists in Mexico, a society riven by el narcoterrorismo — the parastatal power of the drug cartels that has resulted in horrific, widespread violence, human rights violations, kidnappings, power voids in states such as Michoacán, and unprecedented impunity. However, the Geolocalization Law also drew significant criticism and opposition from theNational Human Rights Commission and from critics for whom the poor track record of the State, law enforcement, and security agencies when it comes to protection of privacy and human rights raised serious qualms.

In this paper, we discuss the emergence of this regulation of mobile, locative media in Mexico, through the Geolocalization Law — and what it represents for the discussion of how to grasp and define the sensor society. We also raise theissue of the cultural specificity of sensors, and the need to grasp their infrastructural, historical, political economic, linguistic, and legal characteristics in particular social settings. What are the social imaginaries of sensors? How do these differ, and what are their entailments, and implications? And what kinds of research, critical discussions, and interventions do we need, if we are to acknowledge that sensor are involved in reworking the social in a wide range of places, beyond the dominant reference cases from the Global North?

Location: Room 436, Teachers College Building, Manning Road

Contact:Dr Fernanda Peñaloza

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