Late News

Podcast: COVID-19 is helping turn Brazil into a surveillance state

Leading discussions about the global rules to regulate digital privacy and surveillance is a somewhat unusual role for a developing country to play. But Brazil had been doing just that for over a decade.

Edward Snowden’s bombshell in 2014 detailing the US National Security Agency’s digital surveillance activities changed all that. It included revelations that the agency had been spying on Brazil’s state-controlled oil company Petrobras, and even on then-president Dilma Rousseff´s communications. The leaks prompted the Brazilian government to adopt a kind of digital “Bill of Rights” for its citizens, and lawmakers would go on to pass a data protection measure closely modeled on Europe’s GDPR. 

But the country has now shifted toward a more authoritarian path. Last October, President Jair Bolsonaro signed a decree compelling all federal bodies to share the vast troves of data they hold on Brazilian citizens and consolidate it in a centralized database, the Cadastro Base do Cidadão (Citizen’s Basic Register). 

The government says it wants to use the data to improve public services and cut down on crime, but critics warn Bolsonaro’s far-right leadership could use the data to spy on political dissidents.

For the September/October issue of MIT Technology Review, journalist Richard Kemeny explains how the government’s move to centralize civilian data could lead to a human rights catastrophe in South America’s biggest economy. This week on Deep Tech, he joins our editor-in-chief, Gideon Lichfield, to discuss why the country’s slide into techno-authoritarianism is being accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Check out more episodes of Deep Tech here.

Show notes and links:

Full episode transcript:

Anchor for CBN News:  A new report says the National Security Agency spied on the presidents of Brazil and Mexico. The journalist who broke the NSA domestic spying story has told a Brazilian news program that