Brazil enshrines the concept of privacy in the nation’s federal constitution. As a result, rights in the area of protection and communication are fundamental rights, and individuals in Brazil have the right to seek recourse for them. Brazil has a concept known as habeas data, which enables individuals to access information regarding them in public databases.
Brazil does not stop its privacy and data protection laws at constitutional protection. Under the Brazilian Civil Code, there are procedures for injunctions for privacy violations. There are also situations where liability for damages can be obtained.
Brazil also interprets privacy as a consumer protection issue, and there are protections under the Brazilian Consumer Protection and Defence Code. In addition, there are protections implemented by legislation that became effective in June 2014 that provide for transparency in the use and storage of easily accessible data. Overall, privacy laws provide a variety of protections that continue to be enhanced at various levels of the legal system. Constitutional protections, claims for liability and damages, and consumer protections are all evident in the system created in Brazil.
While these laws provide protections, there is also evidence that governmental authorities participate in some of the same types of surveillance activities that are evident in the policies of other nations. In addition, there has been some effort to facilitate cooperation in surveillance activities with other countries.
Brazil has gained attention for questioning the surveillance activities of other nations. However, despite challenging the surveillance tactics of the United States and other countries, Brazil maintains its own security agency. The Agência Brasileira de Inteligência (ABIN) is one of the main agencies that provides security and surveillance in Brazil, and like other countries’ agencies, this agency has a history of controversy, including allegations that it wiretapped members of the Brazilian Senate and the Brazilian Supreme Court. Other parts of the government that play a role in Brazil’s surveillance activities include the Justice Department and the federal police.
There is evidence that Brazil is undertaking some of the same tactics for surveillance that are being undertaken in nations such as the United States. Bruno Magrani, a law professor who was part of an effort to study many countries in terms of their surveillance, identified several ways in which the Brazilian government may be accessing data.
One key area of concern for Brazil is objecting to the tactics of the United States and its National Security Agency, particularly its monitoring of foreign leaders. Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff was strongly critical of the United States when she learned that the National Security Agency was monitoring her emails. Rousseff responded in part by canceling a state visit, including a state dinner, to the United States. Rousseff was not the only world leader to challenge the United States, but she has continued to give public comments against the United States’ surveillance activities, including at the United Nations.
Another key area of concern for Brazil occurred in 2014 when it hosted the global FIFA World Cup competition. Steps were taken to avoid incidents during that global event. As a country that is characterized as rising in prestige, avoiding a terrorist incident or other security breach during such an international public event was crucial. In 2011, within the Justice Department, the Secretaria Extraordinária de Seguarança para Grandes Events (Special Secretariat for the Security of Large Events) was created, and command centers were built in the cities that were to host the World Cup events. There was also surveillance of social media such as Facebook. Some civil liberties activists criticized the surveillance infrastructure. This shows the difficult balancing act involved in creating security policies while also safeguarding civil liberties.
As Brazil develops as a global power, several key security and privacy concerns remain. It has adopted some strong data protection protocols and continues to pass protective legislation. However, this individual protection and attempt at transparency are balanced with security and surveillance efforts. In a way, Brazil continues to struggle between a desire for individual data protection, an international diplomacy profile characterized in part by a willingness to criticize the surveillance tactics of the United States, and policies and practices that challenge the rhetoric and values of civil liberties and data protection. Dealing with intertwined issues such as cybersecurity, social media, and threats by all types of nonstate actors will likely continue to create challenges in the years ahead. One particular area of interest will be how much global cooperation Brazil participates in since President Rousseff and other political leaders have taken such a public stand in a variety of venues.
Matthew J. Gritter
See also Civil Liberties ; Security, Concepts of
Nancy Scola. “Brazil Begins Laying Its Own Internet Cables to Avoid U.S. Surveillance.” The Washington Post (November 3, 2014). https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/11/03/brazil-begins-laying-its-own-internet-cables-to-avoid-u-s-surveillance/?utm_term=.c00897dcc4fd (Accessed August 2017).