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Mexican judge moves to block personal data from biometric cellphone registry

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A Mexican judge on Tuesday blocked part of a federal telecommunications law requiring cellphone users to give telecom providers their personal data for a biometric registry.

The judge's provisional measure blocks a reform to the law that would put customers at risk of having their lines canceled if they refused to submit their data, according to the judicial filing.

Supporting lawmakers argued that the registry, approved by the Senate last week, was necessary to reduce crime, including extortion and kidnapping, by making it harder for criminals to remain anonymous when opening new cellphone lines.

The registry does not "positively influence" the state's public security activities, according to second district Judge Juan Pablo Gomez Fierro, in comments published in local media.

The registry would require companies like America Movil and AT&T to collect fingerprints or eye biometric data from customers and submit it for inclusion in a registry managed by Mexico's telecoms regulator, the IFT. It would then be available to law enforcement upon request.

The provisional suspension is the first legal hurdle the registry has faced after lawmakers in the lower house and Senate approved it, despite backlash from telecoms industry groups and rights groups. A definitive suspension could come later in April.

Rights groups have argued that registry is an invasion of privacy and could lead people to be exploited by bad actors and potentially wrongly convicted of crime. Cutting lines of those who do not register would also further isolate many Mexicans whose only internet access is by mobile phone, some industry experts said.

"We believe that there are other more effective and less complex mechanisms to implement to combat (extortion calls), as well as technology that provides valuable tools to do so," AT&T said in a statement to Reuters.

(Reporting by Cassandra Garrison and Adriana Barrera; Editing by Dan Grebler)