The internet’s contribution to the Brazilian democratic process
February 2016 | EXPERT BRIEFING | DATA PRIVACY
The Federal Constitution of 1988 provides that “all power emanates from the people, who exercise it through their representatives”. Democracy is the representative governance model adopted by the country, earning effectiveness through universal suffrage.
Over time, citizens have grown accustomed to the idea that the electoral process is the only time when the population is involved with politics. The responsibility of each voter is summed up in choosing a representative who will decide guidelines for the federative entity to follow. In practice, the role of most Brazilians ended with the confirmation of their vote at the polls.
With the implementation of technology, digital inclusion and the popularity of social media, today’s modern citizen now has greater participation in the political life of their country. Arguably, the absence of many tools of participation – found today, for example, in social networks – limited citizen participation in the political arena. From a Brazilian perspective, the resurgence of interest in politics was made possible by the sharing of information between people with the same political ideals and residents in the most remote parts of the country.
Through social networks, the internet now offers more performance control instruments of the Three Powers that were forcibly taken to the consolidation of the Brazilian electronic government, with the opening of access channels to the government giving effect to the provisions of item XXXIII of Art. 5 of the Brazilian Constitution.
These popular pressures culminated in the adoption of legislation for Access to Public Information. The state must ensure the access by objective procedures in transparent, clear and easy language, and every legitimate means and instrument available, should be used by the public agencies and entities, making mandatory the “disclosure of information at official sites of the global network computers (internet)”.
The Complementary Law 131/2009 has imposed transparency in public finances, making official information on public accounts, payroll of servers and hiring, among others, accessible. Technology has enabled citizens to form their own opinions and conclusions and then share them with other ideologically likeminded people.
Regardless of the appearance of these virtual demonstrations of democracy, there are limits to their effectiveness imposed by Brazilian legislation. The Brazilian Federal Constitution considers the right to privacy and intimacy to be a fundamental right to which every citizen is entitled, in every situation, limited only by other fundamental rights such as freedom of speech. These rights authorise individuals to take legal action to enforce the protection of their personal information. Therefore, compensation can be claimed for damages caused by violation of these rights.
The Civil Code states that privacy and intimacy are inviolable rights, and the judiciary, upon request, can adopt any necessary means to impede or prevent any act in contravention of this protection.
The recently enacted Brazilian Internet Act deals specifically with issues affecting the collection, maintenance, treatment and use of personal data on the internet. It became effective on 23 June 2014. The Brazilian Internet Act ratifies the general privacy principles provided in the Brazilian Consumer Protection and Defence Code (that is, the collection and use of personal data requires the data subject’s prior and express consent).
It is worth mentioning the saying, ‘knowledge is power’. Technology is fundamental in the process of empowerment of popular politicisation and the appropriate access to education and audit ability of public power. Many years ago the power that “emanated from the people” slipped from their hands; however, thanks to recent developments in Brazil, that power once again flows from the people, albeit subtly, in a balanced and interesting way for the country. However, it requires all individuals and legal entities to handle personal data with the utmost care, and in compliance with the rights to privacy, protection of personal data, and the secrecy of private communications.
Renato Opice Blum is a partner at Opice Blum, Bruno, Abrusio, Vainzof Advogados. He can be contacted on +55 11 2189 0061 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Renato Opice Blum
Opice Blum, Bruno, Abrusio, Vainzof Advogados