Brazilian government launches operation to monitor the web

Summary:National intelligence agency will analyze data from social networks to measure protest potential

As anti-government protests continue in Brazil - even after the bus fare reductions announced in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro this week - the Brazilian government has rushed to put together an operation to monitor information about upcoming demos across the social networks.

The Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Abin) has allocated resource to analyze information posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp about upcoming protests on a daily basis.

This follows a supposed internal crisis between the presidential office and the institutional security body, which was apparently unaware of the huge wave of protests since it was focused (until now) on the Confederations Cup , according to newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, who broke the story.

According to the newspaper, the temperature and scale of the protests will be measured through a system called Mosaic, which can follow up to 700 themes and can also find out info such as possible involvement of political parties in the demos, as well as supposed financing from those interested in creating havoc.

How exactly this data is being monitored is the question. It seems impossible to me that the government would be able to go through data generated by applications such as WhatsApp without crossing the boundaries of the law. Since information from tools such as Whatsapp don't direct send messages across carrier's SMS networks, it is more difficult to know what is being said.

Having said that, interception of data in such a way is something we have seen in countries such as India and Saudi Arabia. The latter actually has a WhatsApp interception prototype cooking up and the Saudi mobile operator was reportedly surprised about how easy it is to make.

In any case, we need to know whether the Brazilian initiative is an attempt to curb freedom of speech and, most importantly, privacy.

As soon as we have more information, this post will be updated.

Topics: Security


Angelica Mari is ZDNet's Brazil Contributing Editor. She has relocated to Brazil, her home country, in 2011 after living and working in Europe for a decade. She started her professional life when she was 14, as a software trainer coaching executives at major Brazilian companies until the age of 17, when she started writing professionally.... Full Bio

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