ASUNCION – Activists in Paraguay contend Congress is drafting legislation that will force Internet service providers to retain customers’ personal information for one year, a bill they say could be used to control citizens’ behavior.
The bill, known as the Data Traffic Retention Act, has already passed in the Senate and requires ISPs to store systemic metadata, which includes technical details, such as coordinates, times and other information associated with photos, songs, text or files exchanged by Internet users, for 12 months.
“They are drafting intrusive legislation that violates privacy and, with the excuse of going after some criminal activities, they will come up with something that is a threat to all citizens,” Maricarmen Sequera, a 30-year-old lawyer specializing in copyright law and director of the non-governmental organization Tedic, told Efe.
Tedic is a pioneer in defending citizens’ rights on the Internet in Paraguay.
“This law would allow the monitoring of what a citizen is doing, what Web sites he visits, at what time he reads messages, where, etc.,” Sequera said.
Sequera and Jazmin Acuńa, Tedic’s 27-year-old director of projects, are leading a campaign to block the legislation that has spread over the Internet.
The activists launched an effort through social media against what they call “pyrawebs,” a term that combines the concept of a Web site and the Guarani noun “pyrague,” a term for snitches and police infiltrators during the 1954-1989 Stroessner dictatorship in Paraguay.
The campaign went viral, fueled by fresh memories of the “Terror Archives” compiled by the Stroessner regime and other military dictatorships in the region, containing tons of documents about citizens’ political affiliation and other personal information, and which were used to persecute hundreds of thousands of people in South America, Sequera said.
“The bill looked to many people as Terror Archives 2.0,” she said.
The European Union’s Court of Justice has already banned the system for storing metadata and it does not exist in other Southern Cone countries.
Acuńa said Tedic would continue promoting human rights, transparency and citizens’ participation, and fighting against pyrawebs, while committees in the lower house of Congress debate the bill before sending it to the floor for a vote.