EFF on January 17, 2013 By Katitza Rodriguez
This is the first in a series of posts mapping state surveillance challenges in Latin America and lessons learned at EFF’s State Surveillance Camp in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.
What happens when you place a mix of journalists, technologists, human rights lawyers, digital rights activists, and victims of surveillance from around the world in a room to map the problems of electronic surveillance? What emerges is a complicated story made up of a number of complicated stories. Each participant brings a particular expertise to bear on the larger surveillance puzzle. Taken as a whole, these voices paint a portrait of state surveillance that is far more contextual and diverse than most people could imagine. More than anything else, what one learns is the critical role that context—the unique political histories and conflicts, socio-cultural expectations, and surrounding foreign and national policies—plays in shaping how state surveillance programs and practices are being carried out. This includes who can be surveilled and the ability of citizens to challenge surveillance. In spite of these disparate conditions, some surveillance practices are common to Latin America and continue to reappear amidst very different contexts.(…)
The article then speaks about 4 issues:
Surveillance in Context: Some countries in Latin America have created their tools for estate surveillance in the context of war against drugs trafficking. For others, it is a remnant of previous military regimes.
Distinct Contexts for Those with Access to Technology: The surveillance is different in urban settings and in rural areas.
Challenging the Assumption that Surveillance Equals Security: Sometimes civilians may approve the use of surveillance tools because of the misconception that they can improve security.
Role of the United States in Surveillance Technologies in Latin America: For several years, DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is supposed to help local governments in their fight against narco trafficking. In several cases, this help has been used to monitor opponents. Wikileaks cables showed that, in the cases of Paraguay and Panama, these technologies were used to spy on leftist groups in operations unrelated to narcotics investigations.