Will El Hermano Mayor de Leon be Watching You?

Writing in Fast Company, Austin Carr made more than a few scratch their heads in wonder this evening:

Biometrics R&D firm Global Rainmakers Inc. (GRI) announced today that it is rolling out its iris scanning technology to create what it calls "the most secure city in the world." In a partnership with Leon — one of the largest cities in Mexico, with a population of more than a million — GRI will fill the city with eye-scanners.

Houston-based lawyer Ignacio Pinto-Leon, who is admitted to practice in Mexico as well as New York, smells an urban legend in the making:

  • Leon is a municipality in the state of Guanajuato. I would think the city does not have a budget for the price tag of the technology. The state executive maybe; the federal government for sure. But not a city.
  • City jails house only drunks and prostitutes for up to 36 hours for each infraction.
  • The state and federal government run the real jails. So, the first take of irises on inmates would give a very poor—but probably cheerful—sample.
  • Put  fancy little cameras in public places in Mexico, and most likely they would get stolen quickly. I’m not bashing my countrymen; just guessing. 
  • So, it would flag the "bad guys." Well, the bad guys in Mexico are really bad guys. They have really big guns—we don’t sell guns in Mexico except through the Mexican Secretary of Defense, but have a neighbor nearby who sells everything from grenades and whatnots at good prices. And sometimes the bad guys attack in groups of forty or more. 
  • Kidnappers would routinely include ripping the eyeballs to avoid detection.
  • Is the government going to share the information with stores in the case of shoplifters? Really? Entrepreneurs distrust the government; why would they open their computers to them?
  • The only two sources with information are: the company’s webpage, and a press release published in an online newspaper. The press release is also by the same company and a local partner.
  • No AP, REUTERS, NOTIMEX or any other agency note. Nada.

Having said that, Pinto-Leon commented:

Mexico is Mexico. Few things would surprise me regarding my beloved country. We say that compared to Mexico, Kafka was a costumbrist (Mexico is essentially Kafkian by nature). I don’t know if they have the technology to try it on such a wide population. My guess is that the note is inaccurate. It would be interesting to read more about it. Constitutionally speaking, there could be some freedom of transit and freedom of privacy issues too. 


4 comments on “Will El Hermano Mayor de Leon be Watching You?

  1. Ignacio’s take is eye-opening (no pun intended).


  2. The press release places Leon 2 hours south of Guadalajara. How much confidence would you have in an iris scan by a company that can’t tell south from east?
    Given that Mexicans were resistant about registering cell phones, not to mention the national car registry, what makes anyone think we’ll give up our irises?


  3. gary says:

    I haven’t heard or read anything about it–but as you know, governments don’t annouce their plans/actions in advance here in Mexico. As you also know, this would never work in Mexico–people refused to register their cell phones so I am sure they would never register their irises. That doesn’t mean that the city of Leon hasn’t contracted for the service–it’s possible. We always have big plans and great ideas here in Guanajuato (interurban train system, Bicentennial Expo next to the GM plant in the historically important city/town of Silao, plant for turning sewage into fuel, etc.), but we never quite get past the idea–and the inital expenditure of a few hundred millions (or billions as in the case of the PEMEX refinary fiasco) of pesos.


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