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The global phenomenon of the use of technology and the big data to campaign for elections It has been a reality in local politics for years. But nevertheless, It constitutes a crime when a government obtains such private data through state records. The Anses and PAMI databases, the assistance plans such as the Emergency Family Income (IFE) and the Emergency Assistance for Work and Production (ATP) and the vaccination certificates Y tests of coronavirus, are examples of the numerous ways that a government has to access personal information of citizens and divert it for political purposes. The recent drawing of the salary of the national deputy Javier Milei, which in order to participate requested the registration of personal data, revived this debate, which promises to be exacerbated as the date of the national census, scheduled for May 2022.

“A census with DNI is far from being a statistical census, it is a personal database”, he stated Beatriz Busaniche, President of the Vía Libre Foundation, which defends fundamental rights in the digital environment. He was referring to the national census that will take place on May 18, as announced by the National Institute of Statistics and Census (Indec), which included in the pilot tests the request of the national identity document to the participants, for the first time in Argentine history. This caused strong criticism by civil society associations and academics, alleging that the request for this information is contrary to international recommendations and that in this way it would be advancing towards the privacy of people.

Therefore, although it has not yet been publicly announced, official sources of the Indec anticipated to THE NATION that They decided not to include the question about the DNI in the physical questionnaire of the census. But faced with the journalistic insistence on the fine print, they admitted that Yes, these data will be requested in the digital census, to the reference person who starts the questionnaire, from the age of 14. The reason, they alleged, is to validate that the person responding is a human being; although there are numerous and proven alternative mechanisms to verify this without the need to request the DNI.

President Alberto Fernández led the inaugural meeting of the National Census Operational Census Committee, accompanied by the Chief of Staff, Santiago Cafiero, and the Minister of Economy, Martín Guzmán
President Alberto Fernández led the inaugural meeting of the National Census Operational Census Committee, accompanied by the Chief of Staff, Santiago Cafiero, and the Minister of Economy, Martín Guzmán

“Not in vain the Constitution integrated the right to privacy and intimacy, also recognized in international deals human rights,” he said. Busaniche. He regrets that there seems to be no understanding of the importance of these rights: “The State has a lot of information but is not the ownerWe are the owners.”

Also, he raised the susceptibility of this personal data to being attacked and stolen, as has already happened with Renaper, immigration and the Federal Police. “The trajectory of the Argentine State in protecting citizen data is tending to zero,” he remarked.

A not minor detail in this matter is that More than a year ago, the Agency for Access to Public Information, personal data protection law enforcement authority,it is headless.

Cristina Girotti, a constitutional law professor at the University of Buenos Aires and a specialist in electoral law, was blunt about the illegality of these practices: “Using a public database for other purposes is prohibited. You cannot use the Anses or Afip base to do politics. The problem is who proves if you used it or not, there is no control”. He pointed out that there is a large market for personal information, where “it circulates in the black.” A database that can be used for electoral campaigns can cost an average of 7 million pesos, hence the value for politicians of obtaining “free” data from the State.

If a public official illegitimately accesses or discloses a bank of personal data can be criminally convicted. According Henry of the Rail, secretary of Original Cases and Constitutional Affairs of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the city of Buenos Aires and professor specialized in constitutional law and technology, this “manipulation of information” implies the “violation of secrets and breach of duties of a public official.” According to the DNI application in the census, indicated that in these statistical processes the principle is “anonymization”, which would be lost by requesting this information.

Official operation to obtain the national identity document
Official operation to obtain the national identity documentCourtesy Renapper

He highlighted the importance that the delivery of information is always with an “informed consent”, so that the citizen is clear about the destination of their own data. In any case, he considers that targeted advertising and digital marketing are useful, and rejects extremism that stands up to modernization, but believes that it is necessary to reflect if we are not overpaying for the service we are receiving. “Society must define how much its personal data is worth”, he reflected.

“Politics was late to something that companies and digital marketing saw many years ago,” he warned. Juan Courel, presidential campaign coordinator Alberto Fernandez, about “digital contactability”, one of the main tools used by the front of all to communicate with voters. recognized to THE NATION that “there is always controversy about the origin of these databasesthere can be anything there… It is possible that there are some databases that are public and that someone can appropriate and use them”.

Courel also noted that “there is little regulation regarding the use of public databases and that can be hollow for opportunism not so happy “. In this sense, he recalled that there is a debate in the world about the use of personal data by the State that “is not settled yet”. Lastly, he noted that Together for Change It was always at the forefront in the use of technology as a political tool: in fact, the management of Cambiemos was denounced in July 2016, when the Secretary of Public Communication, which then depended on the Chief of Staff, Mark Pena, began to use the Anses database to “fine tune” its communication strategy.

Alberto Fernández at the closure of the Front of All campaign
Alberto Fernández at the closure of the Front of All campaignFDT

From the team of Together for Change They affirmed to this medium that in the 21st century the way of communicating is different. They consider that there are different ways of using the new digital tools for electoral campaigns and they pointed out as a way of harmful use of data the case of Cambridge Analytica. However, they highlighted that there are numerous uses positive of technology and data, as they do Google Y Free market.

Indeed, the international debate on the use of personal data for political purposes began with the case of Cambridge Analytica, a British company that used data analysis for strategic communication in electoral campaigns. Acquired private information from more than 50 million users of Facebook and used them for psychologically manipulate to voters in the presidential elections of U.S in 2016, when Donald Trump was elected, and in the referendum for the departure of United Kingdom from European Union, the Brexit, in 2020.


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