Brazilian carriers ordered to share data from Brasília attackers

Bnamericas Published: Monday, January 09, 2023

To facilitate criminal investigations, Brazilian supreme court judge Alexandre de Moraes ruled that mobile carriers must keep connection and geolocation records of individuals who participated in the assault on institutions in Brasília.

Moraes presides over an inquiry into anti-democratic acts and is head of electoral court TSE. His ruling came after a request by the attorney general.

Thousands of supporters of former president Jair Bolsonaro stormed and vandalized congress, the supreme court and the presidential palace on Sunday.

According to Moraes, telecom companies, in particular personal mobile service providers, must store the records for 90 days.

Criminal lawyer Dora Cavalcanti, partner at law firm Cavalcanti Sion Advogados, told BNamericas that “only the public prosecutor's office can bring charges and define legal conducts. More important than that is the fact that we have a thorough phase of complete identification of these people. Who was there, who recorded the videos, who entered the buildings, who was actually plundering public property.” 

Cavalcanti also defended former construction conglomerate Odebrecht in the early days of the Lava Jato probe and is a senior member of the bar association.

In response to a query by BNamericas about the request, association Conexis Brasil Digital said, “the providers associated with Conexis Brasil Digital inform that they comply with court decisions and clarify that all connection records by the companies' mobile networks are already stored for a longer period than required, in accordance with legislation.”

In a joint statement, telecoms regulator Anatel and other watchdogs said “the invasion and depredation of public buildings are unacceptable and constitute total disrespect for democracy and for Brazilian institutions.”

They added, “there needs to be accountability and that such agents are punished rigorously, so that no more actions like these occur.”

Other ICT industry entities equally expressed their concerns.

Vivien Suruagy, president of Feninfra, the association of call centers companies and firms that install and maintain telecommunications and IT network infrastructure, said:

"Feninfra repudiates the acts of vandalism, depredation of public property and invasion of the headquarters of the Three Powers in the federal district. Acts like these are very harmful to democracy, the country, the economy and Brazil's international image. These are criminal actions that disrespect the Constitution, institutions and the rule of law."

She added, "the entity, as a representative of a sector that is part of the data, information and media transmission value chain, defends the right to free expression and of thought and peaceful and civic acts, but violent actions cannot be tolerated. The facts need to be duly investigated and those responsible held accountable in accordance with the law."

Also in a statement, Brazilian software industry association ABES "strongly condemns the acts of vandalism that took place this Sunday at Praça dos Três Poderes, in Brasília."

"We expect energetic and swift actions by constituted authorities, within the limits of the Rule of Law, for the investigation of the facts and the due accountability of agents", the company said in a statement.

ABES added that "with the purpose of contributing to the construction of a more digital and less unequal Brazil, in which information technology plays a fundamental role in the democratization of knowledge and the creation of new opportunities for all, ABES is against any action of violence and reiterates unrestricted support for the rule of law."

Paulo Pimenta, head of social communication department Secom, said in a statement that invaders of the presidential palace also stole weapons and “lots of hard drives.” Information about these hard drives’ whereabouts or the information they contained was not available.


“Today we can no longer build an investigation, especially one of this kind, based solely on the accounts of witnesses, for example. There are a series of technological measures that have to work in favor of the investigation, always supported by due judicial decision,” Cavalcanti said.

She cited the example of São Paulo state’s Detecta system, which automatically identifies vehicles through surveillance cameras and which, according to her, has been useful in different investigations.

Also, according to Cavalcanti, toll systems and speed radars can and should be used to track down, for example, the buses and vehicles that came from other states to participate in the assault.

In addition to the telecoms logs, Moraes also ordered that social media profiles of participants be blocked. In case of non-compliance with the order, platforms are subject to daily fines of 100,000 reais (US$19,000). So far, 18 profiles have been blocked.

In the US, Meta, controller of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, had already informed that it would remove any content supporting or praising the ransacking of Brazilian government buildings.

Cavalcanti said charges will likely relate to attempts at a coup d'état and acts against the rule of law.

Both are included in the national security law, approved by congress and promulgated by Bolsonaro in 2021.

Cavalcanti also said that another “complex, but equally or more important” step in the investigation concerns possible omissions by authorities, such as that of Federal District governor Ibaneis Rocha, who has been suspended for 90 days, and the identification of financiers.

“In addition to making itself available to ensure the functioning of Brazil's institutions, and one of the main measures in this regard was given by President Lula himself when he held a meeting in the very attacked palace, the bar association in the Federal District has to be very active to understand the level of omission by Rocha,” she said.

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