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Americas Advocacy Group Focuses on Addressing Emerging Surveillance Technologies Global Voices

A woman uses a mobile phone in Ciudad Barrios, El Salvador. (O) SCAR RIVERA/AFP via Getty Images)

This is an excerpt from IFEX’s July 2022 Americas report, republished and edited on Global Voices Advox under a media partnership agreement. IFEX (International Freedom of Expression Exchange) is a global network of organizations working to defend freedom of expression. Read the full report here.

In recent years, technology has proliferated as the go-to solution for fighting crime in the Americas.Yet this trend techno solution principle It has been widely criticized by the government. Tools developed and deployed for the legitimate reason that they are necessary to fight crime do not comply with basic human rights standards. And initiatives to build more “intelligent” cities are turning into invasive systems that collect and use data without sufficient transparency. Autocratic regimes are often using new technologies to invade citizens’ privacy and influence immigrant communities, journalists, rights advocates, and political opponents.

Human rights groups say governments are working hard to install large-scale surveillance and facial recognition systems, using technology developed outside the region without public consultation or participation. .

Controversial spyware technology Pegasus was used earlier this year in an award-winning Central American news organization. El Faro, thanks to a study led by a coalition of digital rights organizations (Access Now, Citizen Lab, Social TIC, etc.). The Inter-American Court of Human Rights also expressed deep concern and asked the government of El Salvador to launch an investigation. At the time, digital rights groups signed a joint statement calling on international and regional organizations to take urgent action.

Surveillance technology using biometric data continues to spread in Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador, according to a recent report led by IFEX member ADC (the acronym stands for “Association for Civil Rights” in Spanish). , the report also highlights what the companies behind these tools deem “dangerous” and the policies and practices implemented by governments that undermine people’s rights. Noting that the use of these technologies continues to spread, ADC stresses how important it is that the public is informed and aware of these initiatives and their problematic applications. .

Sometimes, allegations and investigations into public technology use and unauthorized data collection can bring small wins. This was the case recently in Peru, where local organization HiperDerecho, working with international non-profit organization Access Now, filed a complaint, resulting in personal data obtained from surveillance cameras by the municipality of La Victoria on July 14. has been punished by a national data protection authority for processing

Another development seen as a triumph for privacy took place in two major cities on the continent: São Paulo, Brazil (March) and Buenos Aires, Argentina (April). Local law enforcement has ruled against the use of facial recognition, giving activists hope that similar decisions may be made in other areas.

The United States provided a dramatic example of how sweeping changes in law can justify privacy advocates. The reversal of the ruling, known as “Law v Wade,” which eliminated the right to abortion as a constitutional right, has raised alarm bells about the use of reproductive data online. On this front, IFEX member Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF, a U.S.-based non-profit organization) launched the “My Body, My Data” bill, which aims to “protect the privacy and safety of those seeking reproductive health.” I have asked for approval. Health care. ” It also has an investigation led by three lawmakers into the indiscriminate collection and sale of data by data brokers.

Public digital surveillance has attracted the attention of several organizations based in the Americas in recent years, and has been the focus of numerous awareness campaigns and intensive research. IFEX member Derechos Digitales has published a report on the use of algorithms to monitor urban areas in Venezuela and Bolivia and the implications of surveillance beyond privacy. And in 2021, Derechos Digitales will join IFEX members Fundación Karisma, ARTICLE19 Mexico and Central America, R3D, FLIP and many other organizations to raise awareness about the use of cyber patrols, the monitoring of people’s behavior online by police and others. raised awareness. authorities.

Surveillance practices and technologies continue to advance in the Americas. Still, regional and international organizations are keeping an eye on these developments, spreading awareness, and striving for judicial victories to limit their adverse impact on local communities.