Episode 8 — Collective Digital Rights, Coalition Building, and Class Actions

In this episode of Resist and Reboot, we speak to Rafael Zanatta a lawyer and activist and the co-founder of Data Privacy Brasil on being a part of the digital rights community in Brazil, and the ways in which he and his organisation work towards building a collective understanding of rights through strategizing and engaging with grassroots organisations.

Rafael discusses the emergence of a consciousness around digital rights in Brazil from initial discussions on rights of content creators, and the role of culture in digital spaces, to the framing of Marco Civil to safeguard internet rights, as well as the challenges of defending Marco Civil with a change in governments. Rafael explains the work of grassroots coalitions that worked on building campaigns around connecting privacy to freedom, emphasising the positive aspects of digital rights, focussed on creating awareness and knowledge such that individuals and collectives can reclaim agency around the flow of their data.

In our discussion, Rafael also spoke of the diversity of expertise that grassroots organisations within this space bring together from storytelling and advocacy, policy, and building normative arguments, and then others who engage in data activism, who use technology and automation in favour of civil society work, shaping technology as a strategy of resistance.

The pandemic has also caused many challenges for digital rights in Brazil, and in this episode, we also speak of the challenges of techno-authoritarianism, the problems of disinformation, and the impacts on privacy during the pandemic.

Some of the resources that Rafael has worked and we have discussed in this episode include a documentary about how civil society organized collective efforts to approve the Data Protection Law; a report on Privacy and Pandemicsdata protection as a fundamental right and the IBGE case; and a podcast episode about struggles for data protection in Brazil (“The push for data protection in Brazil”, Council of the Americas). Rafael has also contributed to a report, a mini documentary, and podcast episode on techno-authoritarianism in Brazil.

About the project

Places and populations that were previously digitally invisible are now part of a ‘data revolution’ that is being hailed as a transformative tool for human and economic development. Yet this unprecedented expansion of the power to digitally monitor, sort, and intervene is not well connected to the idea of social justice, nor is there a clear concept of how broader access to the benefits of data technologies can be achieved without amplifying misrepresentation, discrimination, and power asymmetries.

We therefore need a new framework for data justice integrating data privacy, non-discrimination, and non-use of data technologies into the same framework as positive freedoms such as representation and access to data. This project will research the lived experience of data technologies in high- and low-income countries worldwide, seeking to understand people’s basic needs with regard to these technologies. We will also seek the perspectives of civil society organisations, technology companies, and policymakers.