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Brazilian watchdogs file complaint on government data leak

The Sigil Institute and Data Privacy Brasil, two data protection watchdogs, filed against Brazil’s federal government following revelations by The Brazilian Report that the private data of millions of citizens was leaked to bank representatives.

On October 22, The Brazilian Report exposed the leak of private information belonging to at least 3.7 million beneficiaries of the Auxílio Brasil benefit — the government’s flagship cash-transfer program. The data was in the hands of bank representatives, for the purposes of actively proposing payroll deduction loans to these individuals during the presidential runoff campaign.

The list of information in banks’ custody includes people’s full address, mobile and home numbers, date of birth, how much they receive in benefits every month, their enrollment number on the government’s NIS welfare database, and their public healthcare ID numbers.

The data on each individual is so extensive and specific that, according to experts, they in all likelihood came from the federal government itself.

Data Privacy Brasil filed a complaint before the Federal Prosecution Office. The watchdog asks for an investigation into possible electoral crimes involving the leakage of the data. Instituto Sigilo filed a civil suit requesting the payment of moral damages to the people whose information was exposed. It also asks for the payment of compensation to a fund aimed at protecting civil rights.

Both NGOs point to privacy violations and possible abuse of power (the latter being an electoral crime). They also demand an explanation from the federal bodies from which the information may have been leaked: the Citizenship Ministry, the state-owned bank Caixa, and Dataprev, the public firm in charge of the monthly payroll of all pensioners and beneficiaries of welfare programs.

“What the story depicts is too serious,” says Bruno Bioni, the director at Data Privacy Brasil. The organization has a project to tackle illicit activity related to citizens’ data leaks.

Subsequent reports by other media outlets also showed that the information was being used to spread false information that Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who ultimately won the presidential race, would end aid programs.

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