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Brazil had a secret program to track people’s location via cell phone

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In the first three years of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the country’s intelligence agency ABIN secretly operated a tool that could track the location and movements of citizens, according to a report by local news outlet Globo.

The tool, called FirstMile, allowed, without any justification, the intelligence agency to monitor the locations of up to 10,000 phones every 12 months. It was developed by Israeli firm Cognyte and purchased by ABIN for R$5.7 million (1,081,415.40 USD).

Aside from location tracking, the tool could provide “real-time alerts” of a target’s movement at different locations.

The use of the tool was so controversial that ABIN agents questioned it, which resulted in an internal review. The tool was purchased in 2018 and used until mid-2021.

Speaking to Globo, a senior official at ABIN said that the agency justified the use of the tool because it had legal “limbo.”

The Brazilian constitution does not expressly ban access to cell phone metadata.

The agency could simply say it was using the tool because of national security and it would not be in violation of privacy laws.

However, the official said that the issue was the tool was managed without control and it was not possible to know who had access.

Legal experts and privacy advocates have raised concerns about the use of the tool, claiming it was a violation of the right to privacy.

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