This post is part of the series “Unblinking Eyes: The State of Communications Surveillance in Latin America,” a collaborative project conducted with digital rights partners in Latin America, which documents and analyzes surveillance laws and practices in twelve countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Uruguay. In addition to the individual country reports, EFF produced a comparative legal analysis of the surveillance laws in those twelve countries, as well as a regional legal analysis of the 13 Necessary and Proportionate Principles written with Derechos Digitales, and an interactive map that summarizes our findings.
In Peru, weak surveillance oversight brought down a prime minister. In 2015 the Peruvian magazine, Correo Semanal, alleged that Peru's National Intelligence Directorate (DINI) had illegally spied on journalists, businessmen, policy makers, politicians, and members of the military and their families. The DINI purportedly accessed information stored in Peru's national registry of properties.
The then Peruvian prime minister, Ana Jara, who was responsible for overseeing the DINI at the time, argued that the directorate was simply “copying information contained in public files and not violating tax secrecy or personal privacy.” Even so, Ms. Jara asked the Prosecutor's Office to investigate the situation for criminal wrongdoing and fired the agency's director, its' counter-intelligence chief, and its' national intelligence chief.
Congress felt the prime minister was to blame. Due to the political context at the time—for the upcoming presidential and congressional elections were only a year away—a Peruvian congressman argued that it was “obvious that the real goal [of the DINI's data collection] was to filter information to the press in order to 'eliminate' the ruling contenders [for the upcoming elections].” Then-President Ollanta Humala was left to select a new prime minister and cabinet after Ms. Jara was forced to step down.
President Humala did little to heed Congress's warning about unchecked surveillance of those in power. Just four months after Jara was ousted, the president enacted Legislative Decree Nº 1182, dubbed “Ley Stalker,” which forces telecommunications providers to retain communications data of their users for three years. Ley Stalker, allows warrantless access to location data in cases of blatant crimes. Simply put, the decree shifted surveillance practices based on individualized suspicion to the mass, untargeted collection of communications of an entire population.
Ley Stalker and the DINI are just part of a continuing patchwork of poor surveillance oversight and alleged misuse by the executive in Peru. You can hear more about that history from those who experienced it, in our video below.
To learn how to fix these problems, Peru’s leaders need to understand how their current system works—and what needs to be done to fix it.
Surveillance in Peru Today
The “State Communications Surveillance and the Protection of Fundamental Rights in Peru,” by Miguel Morachimo, director of the Peruvian NGO Hiperderecho, is part of the project “Unblinking Eyes: The State of Communications Surveillance in Latin America.” The Peru report analyzes surveillance law in Peru and provides recommendations. Here are some of its main findings:
Overall, Miguel Morachimo of Hiperderecho is concerned with the lack of transparency and accountability of the intelligence system:
Few things can be said with certainty about how to reform our national intelligence system mainly because no one really knows how the system has been working over the past ten years. This is precisely the first thing to fix. The national government should be more transparent about the scope of their intelligence work, the number of data requests it makes, and the kinds of information it obtains from Peruvians through intelligence channels. This isn't about tipping off the bad guys, this is about allowing the public access to anonymized statistical information about their operations in order to ensure that those in power are properly overseen and held accountable.
Peruvian politicians have already seen the consequences when surveillance grows out of hand; but it seems the temptation to grant greater powers without oversight remains. As with every country in our reports, the politicians and judges of Peru should understand that without careful limits, broad mass monitoring powers will ultimately undermine the safety of their own positions, and the human rights of the people of Peru.