October 20 2022 GM

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Glitter Meetups

Glitter Meetup is the weekly town hall of the Internet Freedom community at the IFF Square on the IFF Mattermost, at 9am EDT / 1pm UTC. Do you need an invite? Learn how to get one here.

Date: Thursday, October 20

Time: 9am EDT / 1pm UTC

Who: Cristian León

Moderator: Úrsula

Where: On IFF Mattermost Square Channel.

Digital rights in Bolivia and Datachiri - The dystopian story about a mythological being who steals our personal data

Bolivia is one of the few countries in Latin America that does not have legislation in personal data protection. In response, the InternetBolivia.org Foundation is working with civil society groups to promote a law to protect personal data with Bolivian authorities on national and subnational levels. They began searching for different artistic expressions to communicate the importance of having this law. With the comic artists Alejandro Barrientos and Joaquin Cuevas,they created Datachiri 2.0 Comic. It is a dystopian story that shows what happens with our data and our own bodies in 2044 when the personal data protection law would be absent.

Cristian León is the executive director of Internet Bolivia, an organization which defends digital rights in the south american country.


Could you introduce yourself to the folks who are arriving in the room?

  • My name is Cristian Leon. I am from Bolivia. Currently I am Secretary of the Al Sur consortium of 11 CSOs that work on digital rights in Latin America and Executive Director of InternetBolivia.org Foundation, a very young organization in Bolivia that promotes digital rights and digital Inclusion.
  • I have also been a digital security trainer and a digital rights activist for many years, actually I participated in the last Internet Freedom Festival (I think it was 2019) so perhaps we already met with some people in the community before.
  • But that is what I do during the day. During the night, I am Batman (Of course not) but I am a very geek person, videogamer, podcast consumer and many other things.

How would you describe the Internet Bolivia Foundation and the digital rights status in Bolivia?

  • InternetBolivia.org Foundation is an initiative created in 2018, between a group of activists here in Bolivia. But, we have known each other since 2011 at least. It was a different time, you know. Twitter was a good place to be, social media was a synonym for participation in democracy, and we had dreams of a better world. But everything changed so fast and it turned into something bad.
  • Well, the thing is we wanted to do a change because we had this sensation that the internet wasn't what we expected. We were afraid our Government could do surveillance and start pursuing activists, companies could gather our personal data. That is why, with the help of other organizations in the region, we created our own civil society organization to defend digital rights.
  • We maintain that spirit, we are still an activist organization. Now we are working on several public policies, we have a digital security helpline, we do papers and evidence-based research, campaigns, and all those things that Civil Society Organizations do. But, we also do cool stuff, like the comic book called Datachiri.

What would be the main challenges in Bolivia related to digital rights? The country lacks a Data Protection law and there’s a low indigenour digital access. How do you see these topics?

  • Bolivia has many problems that affect our digital rights. As most of the countries in the Global South and because of the pandemic, we have accelerated our digitization at a very fast pace. But this is a big problem because it is the same problem as urbanization: Latin American countries had a very fast urbanization in the last 20-30 years, but because it was not a planned urbanization, now several Latin American cities are chaotic, unsustainable and very unequal. Well, the same problem is happening with the internet.
  • Here in Bolivia, between 2020 to 2022, connections to the internet have increased by 15-20%. People are using the internet for everything and are demanding services, platforms, security, good connections and so on.
  • In order to protect people's rights, we need several things, including legislation in many things: data protection, cybersecurity, regulation for technological companies, digital violence, etc.
    • We need our legislators, public officers and authorities to put in the agenda this necessities.
    • We need campaigns for people to get to know their rights.
    • We need digital literacy (from the most basic issues).
  • Well, the problem is that between 2019 and 2020 we had a very big political crisis that continues until today. This means that our State does not have the capacity to respond to the necessities of the people because it is very weak, unstable and is more involved in the political struggles than solving actual problems. Additionally, the Government has some authoritarian views and like many other governments in the region, it wants to control information, do massive surveillance and use fake news at their convenience. We are a digital rights paradise!
  • Yes, we don’t have a data protection law. This is a big necessity. We have companies that are getting their hands in very big databases with lots of personal data (You need to give your birthdate and ID number even to buy gasoline) – and they sell them in the black market. We have data leaks that are not very known by the public. The Government is implementing data and systems interoperability without any kind of control. There are no standards, there are no safeguards, not guarantees for people.

You have been fighting for Data Protection for 10 years now, can you share some insights about this process?

  • Since we started our fight for getting a personal data protection law we have some advances but also throwbacks. We started demanding it in 2018, but since then, it has been quite a ride. I think we had for impacts until now:
  • Legitimacy of the Personal Data Protection Bill of Law with strong civil society support.
  • After doing an intensive campaign to promote data protection and having adopted a crowd-source perspective for the elaboration of the draft, we get a document that for itself, we count it as an impact. Our data protection draft passed through a campaign for online comments, reviews and contributions from several stakeholders and an internal improvement based on learnings and exchanges with experiences in other countries. , we can say that this document represents diverse points of view and has a strong legitimacy in civil society.
  • Community building. One of our main scopes was to generate a strong network to support a data protection draft. That is why we started a Bolivian Coalition to promote digital rights. This coalition is composed by 15-20 stakeholders from different sectors. Most of these stakeholders have actively participated in several of our events and also, we have coordinated joint activities. Through this strategy, InternetBolivia Foundation is consolidated as a leading organization in the topic.
  • Breaking the technical barrier. Data protection is a technical topic. At the beginning of the project, most of the stakeholders which we had some kind of relation with and that were aware of data protection were lawyers and informatic engineers. With the support and the encouragement of Internews, we could reach new and very diverse audiences. First, we generated a massive course in which 1.500 people subscribed and participated - At least 80% of them were none-technical or not directly related to technologies -. Second, we published a comic and an audio fiction that allowed us to gain the interest of a more artistic and geek public. Third, we had meetings with a wide diversity of stakeholders that work in areas that are very far from technologies but are profoundly affected by them.
  • State involvement. High-level decision-makers were influenced and involved in elaboration and support of a data protection law. We reached the Constitution Commission of the Lower Chamber of the Legislative Assembly and Presidency of the Senate. The first one was through our own initiative while the second was by a direct invitation to provide technical support. Not only that, but also we met with at least five other legislators that showed interest in the topic. Other public institutions, such as AGETIC (The Agency for Electronic Government), were pushed to act and generate their own proposals. All these situations show a great involvement and political will that can make the data protection law, in the near future, a reality.

About the comic Datachiri, could you explain a bit what it is? For example, where is the "Datachiri" name coming from?

  • Datachiri is a comic book, a very dystopian one that tries to imagine how it is going to be in 2040 if we don't have a data protection law. One of our concerns as a civil society is to translate, in a common and understandable language for the population, the major problems that are occurring with respect to the non-consensual extractivism of personal data, automated decisions without ethical principles and privacy issues. This is because we advocate for legislation and public policies that can protect our personal data and recognize our rights in digital environments. However, this is a difficult job because, to a large extent, the concepts linked to technologies are very technical and far from the common language of people, and they are also biased by perspectives that position them as solutions to all our problems. How to generate new perspectives? How to make that translation?
  • That is why we decided to rethink the concepts and contextualize them to our reality. Bolivia, as part of the whole Andean region on this side of the world, is full of myths and traditions. One of them is that of the Kari Kari: a mythological being, who sometimes appears in the form of a foreigner or stranger to the place, kidnaps you and extracts your fat and vitality. It is said that once the Kari Kari appears, your health will deteriorate and you even run the risk of dying slowly. So we wondered, is there a modern Kari Kari?
  • That's when artists Joaquin Cuevas and Alejandro Barrientos helped us think of Datachiri, a comic that tries to make another kind of advocacy for the data protection law in Bolivia. Datachiri is a representation of the Kari Kari, a being that is sucking our digital vitality, our personal data. Joaquin and Alejandro thought of this idea from a dystopian universe set in 2044, using the universe of Altopia (a graphic novel created by them very popular in Bolivia). In this dystopian universe, a sort of sect: Global Analytic Congregation, has distributed free intelligent prostheses to populations in vulnerable situations but with the intention of controlling their bodies. At the same time, the term Datachiris, cybercriminals specialized in stealing information from smart prostheses and people's biometric data, has become popular. But the Datachiri, finally, is not just cybercriminals, it is actually the Global Analytic Congregation, it is the companies that extract our data. The idea behind Datachiri, is to portray as crudely as possible, what can happen (or is already happening), with the mismanagement of our information and the abuses that can be committed, but taking advantage of the mythological context itself, our fascination with myths and legends, and taking advantage of an art form as beautiful as it is the comic.
  • That's it. For us, it is an alternative way of defending our rights, perhaps much more entertaining and with greater reach to the people than the traditional ways we already know.

Why is the name Datachiri? What does "Chiri" mean?

  • In quechua means cold, in aymara it is more referred to "male"
  • In reality we adapted from Karisiri, that is this monster that steals your grease and vitality
  • The idea is that the Datachiri is a modern version of the Karisiri

How has the reception been about Datachiri in Bolivia?

  • It was very good. Because the authors of Datachiri (Alejandro Barrientos y Joaquin Cuevas, two great artists) are very famous here in Bolivia because they created another comic book: Altopia (Another dystopian story), it was easier for us that people get interested in Datachiri (People understood it as a Spin-off of Altopia).
  • So, people now are reading about data protection and getting more interested in the topic.

Would you like to share some links or contacts where people could reach you later?

  • Twitter: @crisleoncor
  • Email address: cleon@internetbolivia.org
  • Mattermost handle: @crisleoncor