Mexican Presidential candidate Marcelo Ebrard recently announced a security plan which calls for using several digital technologies with the potential to create a nationwide surveillance state.
On July 10th, Mexican politician Marcelo Ebrard announced the Angel Plan, a security program which would use eight digital technologies in an attempt to end the infamous instability and violence which plagues parts of Mexico. The Angel Plan stands for Advanced Geolocation and Security Standards.
Ebrard is currently a candidate for the 2024 Mexican Presidential election. He has been affiliated with Mexico’s National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) since 2018. That same year Ebrard would be appointed to lead the foreign ministry by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). He served as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs until June when he resigned to compete for the presidential candidacy.
When Ebrard announced the plan with a video on X, formerly Twitter, the video was seen more than 10 million times within the first 5 days. The online response to the announcement was a mix of support and memes mocking the plan and its privacy implications.
Plan Ángel: Disfrutar del México más seguro de la historia pic.twitter.com/HCh8YjcVDB
— Marcelo Ebrard C. (@m_ebrard) July 10, 2023
Rolling Stone Español reported that Ebrard said “all systems will be connected to the database that will operate with Artificial Intelligence, so they cannot be corrupted or make human errors.” This interconnected database would make use of 8 technologies, including:
- Facial recognition on all public roads
- Gunshot detectors, likely the ShotSpotter used in the U.S.
- Weapon detectors
- Morphological recognition
- Vehicle trackers (automatic license plate readers)
- Tracker drones
- Smart cameras (for the Mexican National Guard)
- Artificial Intelligence
Following Ebrard’s announcement, the Network in Defense of Digital Rights released a damning letter calling on the public to reject the Angel Plan.
“We ask the various public actors to act responsibly and offer the population serious alternatives, based on evidence and respect of human rights, to solve the serious problem of insecurity and violence that the country is going through,” they wrote.
The letter, titled “Mass surveillance technologies are authoritarian and do not solve public safety problems,” also stated that “surveillance tools” are being promoted as “magical solutions” to complex problems. The letter was supported by comun.al, Digital Resilience Laboratory, SocialTIC, and Access Now.
Jan-Albert Hootsen, the Mexico representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, tweeted concerns that the state would use the Angel Plan against the people. “The implications of this plan for freedom of expression in Mexico, considering all the illegal espionage by the state during the last decades, are quite worrying. How will Ebrard guarantee that this structure will not be abused by state agents?” Hootsen tweeted.
Mexico Business News was also critical of the plan, warning about the need for a “robust Cybersecurity Law” to “define clear boundaries that prevent the overreach of the National Guard’s powers when dealing with criminal activity.”
Is Mexico Headed Towards a Mass Surveillance State?
While Ebrard did not detail how the Mexican government would fund such an elaborate scheme, it’s important to take note that even in Mexico — a place where some rural Mexicans do not have access to internet or cellphones — the Technocratic philosophy is taking hold. The fact that Ebrard is one of two favored successors to AMLO means his calls for such a dangerous plan should not be ignored. (The other potential successor, Claudia Sheinbaum, is also a proponent of the Agenda 2030.)
In April 2021, I released an investigation asking “Is the Technocracy Coming to Mexico?”. I reported on a proposed plan to put millions of cell phone users’ data in a biometric database. The plan fell apart before becoming law. I also wrote about calls for national biometric ID card in Mexico. Finally, I detailed the attempts to move the millions of Mexican’s working in the informal or counter-economy into the taxed and tracked market by encouraging bank accounts with incentives and subtle coercion. I wrote:
“While the Mexican politicians claim that their efforts are aimed at curbing violence or helping the large rural population of Mexico join the world of biometrics and digital banking for their own benefit, there are reasons to be skeptical of these moves. Requiring people to register their eyes or a faceprint in order to purchase a SIM card for a cellphone, or compelling people to use a digital ID card, or limiting the use of cash will only hurt Mexico’s poorest populations. The authorities may promote the schemes as a way to help the marginal groups, but in reality it will only entrench them into the growing international digital dystopia.
Unlike American, Chinese, and British residents, most Mexicans have not yet become accustomed to a 24-hour surveillance grid. There are no Fusion Centers, mass surveillance programs, ubiquitous CCTV cameras watching your every move, or facial recognition tools.”
Now, with the proposal of Ebrard’s plan, all of that might change. If the Mexican people do not quickly learn about the dangers of this digital panopticon they may mistakenly sleepwalk into the digital nightmare that has become familiar to many citizens of Western nations.
Understanding the Threat of Facial Recognition
Each of the technologies mentioned above come with various privacy and liberty concerns, as well as debates surrounding the accuracy of tools such as facial recognition, gait detection, license plate readers, etc.
Perhaps the most dangerous tool being proposed is facial recognition technology. Facial recognition, along with digital IDs, are essential to the creation of a digital totalitarian state.
Readers have likely heard about how the Chinese Community Party uses facial recognition to monitor the people at their jobs, their homes, and in public. This technology has already been employed by the Chinese government in an effort to identify members of the Uighur Muslim community.
However, the threat of facial recognition is not simply a concern for Chinese residents. The American public (and most of the Western world) is increasingly under facial recognition surveillance in the post-9/11 era. Just last month the European Commission took steps to ban most uses of facial recognition technology and some uses of AI due to the risk to individual liberties.
Of course, the rise of facial recognition in the U.S. predates the COVID-19 panic. On January 3, 2020, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released a Privacy Impact Assessment detailing plans to collect DNA from individuals temporarily detained at border crossings. Border Patrol launched a 90-day pilot program at the Canadian border near Detroit and at the official port of entry at Eagle Pass, Texas, before expanding the program nationwide.
Later that month, forty organizations signed a letter calling on an independent government watchdog to recommend a ban on U.S. government use of facial recognition technology. The letter was drafted by the digital privacy advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and signed by organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Color of Change, Fight for the Future, Popular Resistance, and the Consumer Federation of America.
The letter called on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) to “recommend to the President and the Secretary of Homeland Security the suspension of facial recognition systems, pending further review.”
As far back as June 2019, the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology released a report titled “America Under Watch: Face Surveillance in the United States” which called for a moratorium on facial recognition technology. As I warned in July 2019, the rise of face recognition should scare all Americans.
If the Angel Plan becomes reality, Mexicans will need to quickly familiarize themselves with the dangers of this technology.
Source: The Last American Vagabond
Derrick Broze, a staff writer for The Last American Vagabond, is a journalist, author, public speaker, and activist. He is the co-host of Free Thinker Radio on 90.1 Houston, as well as the founder of The Conscious Resistance Network & The Houston Free Thinkers.
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