Mexico's per‐capita consumption of soda is the highest in the world, which helps explain why public‐health advocates are so happy about the 2014 Mexican soda tax, which has helped shrink soda consumption by 7.6%. The 10% tax worked so well that Mexican nutrition advocates recently pushed to double the tax.
This triggered a bizarre reaction last year: Within a week of submitting their proposal to increase the tax rate, a prominent government nutrition researcher and two vocal proponents of Mexico's soda tax became victims of some despicable doings: They started getting frightening or disturbing text messages claiming things like their child had been in an accident or a partner was having an affair—and telling them to click on a link for more information. Clicking infected their phones with spy tools that gave an infiltrator access to every call, text, email and location. It also hijacked the camera and video recording functions.
It is still unclear who the perpetrators were, though it was confirmed that NSO Group, which is known to supply cyber‐warfare technology to governments, authored the spyware. Citizen Lab, which published a report on the investigation, concluded, "This case suggested that NSO's government‐exclusive espionage tools may be being used by a government entity on behalf of commercial interests, and not for national security reasons or for fighting crime." ConMexico, the soda industry group in Mexico, adamantly denied involvement. Meanwhile, the tax has not increased.
Soda taxes can help cash‐strapped governments raise revenue while improving public health, but that's not how the soft‐drink industry sees things. After all, major players reportedly spent over $67 million fighting soda taxes in cities like Philadelphia; Boulder, Colorado; and San Francisco, Albany and Berkeley in California's Bay Area.
Let's hope they don't get any ideas from the cyber villainy south of the border.
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