Privacy advocates in Paraguay are invoking ghosts from the country’s brutal dictatorship to urge lawmakers to reject a proposal that would require telecom providers to collect and store data on all Internet users in the country.
Today, Paraguay’s lower house of congress is scheduled to debate a bill that would grant government authorities the right to access anyone's telecommunication data for up to 12 months.
Under the proposal, the data kept on file would include Internet users' IP address, connection times and locations. The bill’s supporters say the data could be key in tracking organized crime and terrorist activity, while curbing online child pornography in the South American country.
"If it’s used properly, it could be a useful tool," Bernardo Villalba, a congressman from the ruling Colorado party, told the daily ABC Color.
But the bill has triggered concerns about Paraguayans’ right to privacy.
Paraguayan digital rights groups have launched a grassroots campaign to convince lawmakers to kill the proposed law. The campaign is called "Pyrawebs," a play on the word "pyragues," the term used to describe the civilian spy network that operated under former Paraguayan dictator Gen. Alfredo Stroessner from 1954 to 1989.
"This would effectively be spying," Maricarmen Sequera of the group TEDIC told ABC Color.
Privacy advocates are encouraging ordinary Paraguayans to tweet at lawmakers today to show their opposition to the bill.
Paraguay is the latest country to grapple with Internet data-retention issues.
On Wednesday, a Dutch court struck down a similar data retention law, lifting obligations on telecommunication companies to store and collect data. Advocates fighting the law argued it was unconstitutional because it kept data on people who were not suspected of any wrongdoing.