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A Bit of Hypocrisy From Ecuador On Internet Surveillance

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, November 20 2013

President Rafael Correa (Wikipedia)

Proposed changes to Ecuador's Criminal Code threaten Internet users privacy, security, and possibly even access, reports the digital freedom activist group Access. Among the changes is the provision that Internet service providers (ISPs) must retain records of Internet activity for up to six months. This change would be at odds with the Ecuadorean Constitution, which prohibits arbitrary retention of communications online and off. Another provision would require cybercafes to videotape their patrons. Aside from violating user privacy, this requirement would be prohibitive to small ma and pop establishments, which might close if the owners are unable to afford cameras and data storage equipment.

Activists are not taking the proposed changes lying down. Ecuadorian civil society organizations, like Usuarios Digitales and Asociación de Software Libre del Ecuador have formed a coalition known as #InternetLibre to try to pressure President Rafael Correa to veto the proposed changes.

They met in Quito on November 5 to discuss the potential consequences of the changes to the Criminal Code. Global Voices aggregated some of the tweets filed under #InternetLibre that day, including this dire warning:

There is little awareness that article 474 of #COIP will bring a level of absolute surveillance to our society #Ecuador #InternetLibre - Valeria Betancourt (@valeriabet) November 5, 2013

Alfredo Velazco, a member of Usuarios Digitales, outlined the plans of the #InternetLibre coalition (translated by Global Voices):

Basically to lobby professionals in the field who are mentioned by state bodies, who have not called on or approached civil society via #InternetLibre, despite our having written to them to begin a dialogue. In addition, contact with the President, who ultimately has a veto option over certain articles of the criminal code. To continue the campaign until we have a commitment from the appropriate authorities. We want the article eliminated, not modified.

In light of the proposed changes, the Ecuadorean president's condemnation of the NSA surveillance seems a bit hypocritical, no? Maybe if someone reminds him of those statements, he'll think twice before passing the new Criminal Code. Then again, maybe not.

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