Brazil's consumer rights body slams use of biometrics in the social security system

Watchdog urges the government to put plans to procure the technology should be put on hold until security issues around citizen data are solved.
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer on

Brazilian consumer rights body Idec has notified the country's social security technology firm over its plans to procure biometric technology for use in the social security system.

The country's Social Security Technology and Information Company (Dataprev) is looking to introduce a mobile platform that integrates features including facial recognition technology in order to reduce fraud and simplify processes.

The technology will be used to replace procedures such as the "proof of life", whereby citizens, often elderly or with reduced mobility, have to physically attend a social security center or a bank branch to prove they are alive.

While making the process easier for citizens, the idea is to reduce false claims, where relatives of deceased people continue to receive their benefits. The Brazilian government wants to save up to 9 billion reais ($2.1 billion) in 2019, with initiatives specifically related to reducing benefit fraud.

However, Idec wants Dataprev to address the "systematic data leaks that have been taking place for years" within the social security system. It added that the data belonging to over 34 million Brazilians, often vulnerable citizens, has been often used for fraud purposes and for credit agencies to offer their products illegally.

According to the watchdog, such leaks have been going on for years and despite investigations, no conclusions have been reached.

"It is unreasonable to implement technology that uses sensitive data without citizens being assured that such data will be treated securely and will not be leaked to companies that have abusive or even illegal practices," says Diogo Moyses, coordinator of Idec's Telecommunications and Digital Rights program.

According to Dataprev, the security and governance aspects of the project have been covered during the projects' inception and development within its innovation lab.

The state-controlled company has recently released a manifesto protesting against its impending privatization, due to the criticality of the sensitive data that it holds.

"Regarding privatization, Dataprev is awaiting studies that should advance these discussions, but it stresses that its data protection policy will always improve, advance and follow the law, regardless of the company's legal nature," the state-owned firm said in a statement.

Editorial standards