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Online privacy hangs in the balance pending approval of new data law in Paraguay


This statement was originally published on 5 March 2015.

Today, the Paraguayan House of Representatives postponed for eight days the discussion of a mandatory data retention proposal. The bill, if passed, will require Paraguayan telecom providers to store highly personal information about their customers' Internet use, for one year, for possible future access by law enforcement agencies.

The bill was introduced last year under the flimsy pretext that this measure is urgently needed to prevent crime. These weak, but repeated arguments are a tried and tested technique, fomenting a culture of fear of ceaseless war or terrorism, in order to justify arbitrary and totalitarian incursions on civil liberties. We've read about it in George Orwell's 1984, we've heard about it being practiced by oppressive regimes, and now we're witnessing it first-hand in a democratic country such as Paraguay.

Paraguayans have not taken this threat lying down. TEDIC, a Paraguayan digital rights organization, has launched a grassroots website called Pyrawebs to expose this threat and to mobilize ordinary Internet users to stop it. Internet users have been calling the bill Pyrawebs, alluding to the digital version of pyragues, informers who monitored the civilian population on behalf of ex-dictator, Alfredo Stroessner.

Paraguayan Maricarmen Sequera, TEDIC Executive Director, raised her concerns, telling EFF:

“We urge members to vote for the rejection of #Pyrawebs next Thursday. If the bill is left unaddressed in the next session, there will be a fictitious approval. In other words, it will be approved without debate”.

Jazmin Acuña, TEDIC project director, writing from the Paraguayan parliament told EFF:

"For us, today's parliamentary results show commendable progress. Every day there are more of us who believe in, and fight for a truly free Internet. We appreciate that today several deputies spoke in a form that is consistent with the principles of democracy, freedom and privacy, and have expressed their resounding rejection of #pyrawebs. We hope that the rest of the Parliamentary representatives vote against this bill in the next session”.

From her Twitter account, congresswoman and human rights lawyer Olga Ferreira tweeted, “What happened with the postponement is a small example of what determined people can achieve by pushing back against #pyrawebs”.

She further tweeted, “We have one week to campaign against #pyrawebs. Let's make it worthwhile so [Congress] feels the pressure”.

TEDIC has developed a simple document explaining “10 Myths about Pyrawebs” that all parliamentarians should read.

We don't have long: there are only 8 days left before the mandatory data retention bill is approved or rejected, and if Paraguayans, TEDIC, and their allies can't convince enough politicians to defeat it before then, it will be another blow for online privacy that takes Paraguayans further down the path towards becoming a repressive surveillance state. Tweet #pyrawebs, contact @TEDICpy, and if you are Paraguayan, visit today to demand that your representative vote against this draconian bill.

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