Over the last few months, a lot of fuss has been made through the local media in Los Cabos about a new software capable of accessing the mobile phones of locals and tourists in use within the region.
As it turns out, the local government did, in fact, commission an external business to craft software that would allow the local government to track the location of different devices being used throughout the state.
Does that mean that your phone can be tapped into while in Los Cabos?
Since the existence of the software was made public, the local government has tried to defend itself by insisting that it cannot listen to phone calls through the system. The current administration also made it clear that the software was commissioned to be built by a previous government.
The current governor of Baja California Sur admitted though, that local police are currently using this technology. Although phone calls aren’t necessarily being tapped, social media interactions could be at risk.
How Authorities Claim The System Works
Local authorities justified the creation of the software, saying that it could, in fact, be a great tool to prevent phone scams. Apparently, through the system, authorities could search for a phone number, and if that number is connected to a local network within the state, the software can pull up the location of the device. All this can be done without the knowledge of the owner of the phone.
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Other than the location of the device, the software can pull up other information, like the type of device that is linked to a particular number. Perhaps the most concerning fact surrounding the entire situation is that this software includes tools to provide an in-depth search of the social media footprint that could be linked to a phone.
According to official documents, the software has the ability to analyze any Facebook profile. It can also pull up information from Instagram and YouTube profiles. Particularly public profiles that may be linked to a particular phone number. The software also claims to have a keyword search tool that allows authorities to monitor the online footprint of a potential suspect even further.
Is This Even Legal?
Many people have spoken out against the use of this software, questioning both its legality and the fact that it’s being used by local law enforcement. The president of a renowned local law school recently argued that the use of this tool could not legally be in the hands of local police. In their understanding of the law, there has to be probable cause and a warrant issued by a court to be able to tap a phone line.
Apparently, as things stand, police are using the software as they see fit. This technically means that they could be digging into the personal information of virtually any number that they find within the system.
Even if there’s no warrant or court order to authorize the search. With that in mind, there’s an argument to be made that this system operates outside the law. Even though there has been pressure from local media, there hasn’t been an official legal effort to challenge the use of this software.
Ways Tourists Can Protect Their Privacy While In Los Cabos
People traveling to Los Cabos who are worried about this system potentially breaching their digital privacy do have different options to protect themselves. The software only monitors devices that are linked to Mexican wireless service providers.
The problem is most American or foreign wireless service providers use Mexican networks to provide local coverage through their roaming or travel plans. A satellite phone would be one of the ways to stay off the grid for sure.
Another idea could be to buy a burner phone and purchase a local SIM card to get coverage while in Los Cabos. If you’re going to choose to do that, make sure not to connect any of your social media accounts to the new phone.
It must be said that local authorities claim their intentions behind using this software are in the best interest of locals and tourists. In fact, the governor recently said that multiple criminals had already been apprehended thanks to the software. Still, both locals and tourists are skeptical, to say the least.
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Thursday 16th of March 2023