New criminal code endangers privacy of Ecuadorians

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By Valeria Betancourt for APCNews

QUITO, Ecuador, 26 November 2013

The revelations about mass surveillance and data collection by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) sparked outrage from political leaders around the world, including the government and Legislative Assembly of Ecuador.

Nevertheless, Ecuadorian authorities are now proposing new legislation that blatantly contradicts that position. The proposed article 474 of the new Comprehensive Organic Criminal Code (COIP: Código Orgánico Integral Penal) regulates data registration and conservation. If code with the current wording of Article 474 is ratified, the human rights of Ecuadorians will be seriously affected.

By forcing communication service providers to “preserve the integrity of data regarding telephone numbers, static and dynamic IP addresses”, Article 474 imposes a shift in investment priorities: from now on they would need to have the technical infrastructure to meet these new obligations (as well as exponentially increase storage capacity), which will affect their ability to install and expand infrastructure to serve areas without coverage.

Beyond the issue of technical infrastructure, that data storage, which in the context of the law is understood as all the information circulating on the internet, carries an increased risk of interception, analysis, and unconsented use for commercial or intelligence purposes.

Article 474 also affects traffic on all types of devices (computers, phones, tablets), as well as those who offer internet access to third parties (such as open wifi areas, universities, private connections, etc..), who must also store the data of those who connect to their networks. The law even states that security cameras should be installed to record the identity of users.

In short, Article 474 legalises surveillance at the national level, ignores the right to privacy, eliminates the possibility of progress on the development of legislation protecting personal data, establishes a premise of suspicion and presumption of guilt of individuals, and promotes a culture of distrust among citizens.

Article 478 contradicts Article 12 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (regarding the protection of private life), as well as several articles of the Ecuadorian Constitution. . It also weakens the position of Ecuador on the mass surveillance by the United States of other countries, its political will to protect informants who reveal information of public interest (Ecuador, after all, offered political asylum to Julian Assange), and its intention to advance the protection, defence, and promotion of human rights.

Full analysis available in Spanish.

(END/2013)

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