News image

Brazilian Elections and the Public-Private Data Trade

While the world watches to see whether the far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro will be elected the next president of Brazil, Tactical Tech took a deeper look into a more systemic problem plaguing Brazilian politics: the thriving trade of public and private data by large data firms. Although much of the reporting about the Brazilian elections so far has focused on fake news – especially via WhatsApp and bots on Twitter, Coding Rights, Tactical Tech’s partner for the Brazilian country report, also delved deep into the data brokering industry, to find out how the larger structures behind the use of data in political campaigns work. Beyond how fake news is spread on social media, the interviews with the digital campaign strategists conducted by Coding Rights showed that the industry involves big telecoms and credit scoring companies making use of all kinds of data, from emails to phone numbers. All this information is available, to be used (and abused) in different ways by political parties, campaign strategists or anyone who can buy personal data.

In 2018, Brazil is facing one of the most intense elections in recent years. After 13 years and four consecutive mandates of the left party, Partido dos Trabalhadores, occupying the presidency (twice by Lula da Silva and twice by Dilma Rousseff), Dilma was impeachment in 2016. Ex-President Lula, who was in first place in the Presidential election polls, was arrested in 2018. Both the impeachment and Lula’s arrest were contested by leftist supporters. Now, during the 2018 presidential elections, Brazil sees the rise of the extreme-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro. Our Brazil country study shows that digital campaigning in a context with little data protection creates an environment that exacerbates the current situation of rampant social media attacks, fake news and political polarisation.

For this report, Tactical Tech partnered with Coding Rights.

Read the overview or access the full report. Head to Our Data Our Selves - Data and Politics for more releases from The Influence Industry - a series looking at the use of data in political campaigning and elections.