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Pyrawebs: Paraguayans Rise Up Against Mandatory Data Retention


Alfredo Stroessner Source: Wikimedia

Paraguay understands the dangers of pervasive surveillance. Its ex-dictator, Alfredo Stroessner, maintained his grip on power with the help of “pyragues”, informers who monitored the civilian population on his behalf. That’s why so many in the country recognise the dangers in its new proposed data retention bill. The bill, currently being debated by its politicians, would compel local ISPs to retain communications and location details of every user for a period of 12 months. No wonder it’s been described as creating a new gang of “pyrawebs”: online informers that the authorities can ask to pinpoint the movements, connections, and associations of any Paraguayan citizen.

“For the amount of data that may be available, I’m sure it will overtake the “Terror Archive of the Stroessner dictatorship,” blogger David Bogado, says of the new bill. “This is the Archive of Terror 2.0.”

Modern Paraguay has strong legal protections against the recurrence of a surveillance state. Its constitution, written after Stroessner, takes special care to assert the inviolability of private communications. It also gives international human rights treaties that the Paraguayan state has ratified the binding force of law. In particular, Paraguay has ratified the Pacto de San José de Costa Rica, which protects civil and political rights, declaring:

“Nobody will be the subject of arbitrary or abusive interference in its private life, family, home or correspondence, nor illegal attacks to its honor or reputation.”

Paraguay does not, however, have a personal data protection law, which makes the unchecked nature of the data retention proposals even more dangerous, as it forces companies to comply with the state’s demand for data, without providing any way for citizens to limit or correct the data collected on them.
Maricarmen Sequera, the executive director of Paraguayan digital rights organization TEDIC spells out what the stakes are for the country.

“Thirty-five years of dictatorship in Paraguay scarred our society with silence and fear. The police state is not new to Paraguay; it makes it worse that in this case, the monitoring will be done by private companies. We want a democracy, not a new set of pyrawebs.”

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