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Spying is against the spirit of friendship: Brazil tells US

Date

Lia Timson

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Brazil President Dilma Rousseff wants internet companies to store details of their Brazilian clients on Brazilian soil.

Brazil President Dilma Rousseff wants internet companies to store details of their Brazilian clients on Brazilian soil. Photo: AP

The Brazilian government is forging ahead with an aggressive technology-driven economic agenda that will see it favour onshore data storage and stringent data security laws, in the wake of spying revelations by the US this week.

Using documents released by former IT contractor Edward Snowden, The Guardian revealed the US National Security Agency (NSA) had been snooping on the Brazilian president, citizens' communications and the country's largest company, Petrobras.

Petrobras: The new building housing the ICT and engineering departments in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Petrobras: The new building housing the ICT and engineering departments in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Lia Timson

President Dilma Rousseff promptly cancelled a state dinner invitation at the White House next month – the first such invitation for a Brazilian president in more than 12 years – amid what she called a lack of apology and contrition by US President Barack Obama. Ms Rousseff said she would keep a speaking appointment at the United Nations in New York scheduled for the same week when she will raise the topic of espionage.

"The illegal practice of interception of citizens', corporate and government members' data and communications constitutes a breach of national sovereignty and individual rights and is incompatible with the democratic relationship between friendly countries," Ms Rousseff said in an official statement on Tuesday.

President Obama rang his Brazilian counterpart on Tuesday and in a diplomatic dance designed to appease congress and voters in both countries, official statements described the meeting cancellation as a postponement.

"Initially, the press reports related to government, embassies and citizens, including the presidency," Ms Rousseff said. "Now the target, according to reports, is also Petrobras, the largest company in Brazil. Without doubt, Petrobras does not represent a threat to the national security of any country. It represents one of the largest oil concerns in the world and is the property of the Brazilian people."

Petrobras, one of the world's largest oil and energy suppliers, declined to comment on the revelations on Wednesday, beyond assurances that information security is among its highest priorities.

The IT software general manager at Petrobras, Marcel Kaskus, said: "The information security technologies and strategies we employ are among the most modern. We have no investment limitation in this area."

Speaking to journalists in Rio de Janeiro, Mr Kaskus appeared to indicate no sensitive data had been obtained by external parties.

"We invest in the security of our communication and information, we do not cost-cut," he said. "The main corporate data is stored in company-owned data centres, not externally, and the people who have access to the most sensitive information have a much higher level of security clearance."

The company employs 3500 staff in its technology, telecommunications and engineering departments, including 1500 in-house technicians dedicated to developing proprietary software considered sensitive to operations and working with suppliers on tailored solutions. The IT workforce nearly doubles when outsourcing contractors are included.

Mr Kaskus declined to reveal the vendors involved in Petrobras' data protection and risk mitigation but said all telecommunications needs were sourced nationally. The Brazilian government had a "national content" telco policy to stimulate the local economy rather than for security reasons, he said.

The semi-private company has 200,000 employees worldwide and operates in 25 countries, primarily in oil exploration, natural gas and biofuel. It has its own fibre-optic telecommunications network which it extends to oil rigs via submarine cables. It also rents satellites for 24/7 operations of temporary oil rigs and remote power plants.

It operates a sophisticated video conferencing and telemedicine network for the safety of oil rig workers, and is developing strategies for the use of biometrics in data security and plant safety, as well as machine-to-machine connectivity, artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

Petrobras, which acheived $US140 billion revenue last year, works with most of the world's largest software and hardware vendors, including Microsoft, EMC, IBM and SAP. It is a large Dell and HP hardware buyer.

Wednesday's press conference was to discuss the corporation's use of enterprise resource planning software – a 15-year relationship with German giant SAP. It also runs SAP-owned Sybase software to manage a diverse fleet of mobile devices, including bring-your-own smartphones and tablets.

The chief executive of Brazilian IT association Brasscom, Antonio Gil, said data protection, sovereignty and onshore data storage were "very active" strategies by the country.

"Security is a question at the top of the agenda today. We have to invest a lot to counteract spying," Mr Gil told IT Pro.

He met the Brazilian IT and Science Minister, Marco Antonio Raupp, on Tuesday to discuss ways the home-grown IT community can help mitigate spying in light of the revelations.

"We have invested very little in security (thus far), I grant you," Mr Gil said. "There's an opportunity for the industry to do that."

Brazil's ICT market is the fourth largest in the world at $US233 million annual spend, behind China, the US and Japan. It grew 10 per cent in the past financial year compared with the rest of the world at 5.9 per cent and China's 15 per cent. About 2.5 million people are employed in ICT in Brazil.

The government last week embarked on the second phase of a multi-year technology strategy that aims to lift the world's seventh largest economy to fifth place by 2022.

It involves training youth in IT via an online portal – a partnership with Brasscom and vendors that has seen the initial 50,000 student target more than double to 120,000 completed courses in half of the predicted time frame. It aims to train 8 million people in intermediate IT courses for free to satisfy local skills demand.

Through the Science Without Borders program, the government is also paying for 100,000 students to attend the top 50 universities in the world before returning home to implement their learning and research.

The country has fiscal incentives in place for technology developments and is developing its own national broadband network, planning to deliver the internet via fibre optics to 50 per cent of homes and business in time for the 2014 World Cup and the remainder by the 2016 Olympics, Mr Gil said. The government's Digital Inclusion program, proposes to utilise surplus capacity in existing fibre optic networks under its jurisdiction - such as that of Petrobras and other government agencies.

The writer travelled to Brazil as a guest of SAP.

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14 comments

  • Although the article was sponsored by SAP, it sounds like Brazil is doing things that Australia just cannot imagine.

    Quote.. "Through the Science Without Borders program, the government is also paying for 100,000 students to attend the top 50 universities in the world before returning home to implement their learning and research."

    Australians in the same position are LEAVING this backwater to find work overseas. I wonder if our new 'government' will have similar visions as the Bazilians, or is it really up to Australians themselves to make our country better, perhaps a far better alternative ?

    Or, will we only be happy when Tony "stops. the. boats", as if thats all we need.

    Commenter
    DeConstruct
    Date and time
    September 19, 2013, 1:31PM
    • No article on IT Pro is sponsored. 

      Commenter
      Ed
      Date and time
      September 19, 2013, 1:50PM
    • Dear Mr Ed, it says "The writer travelled to Brazil as a guest of SAP.", but I'll accept that you don't do Murdoch-style advertising. I was qualifying my praise of the article.

      Commenter
      DeConstruct
      Date and time
      September 20, 2013, 1:14AM
  • Science and learning is being trashed by our new PM, ensuring Australia becomes a bogan backwater.

    Commenter
    Max Gross
    Location
    Sapphire Coast
    Date and time
    September 19, 2013, 2:16PM
    • Yes, I can't wait for 3 (6?) years of a dumbed down version of Howard, bu t I expect a version of Reagan without the grandeur.

      Commenter
      Max Zero Fuel
      Location
      Foward of rear CG limit.
      Date and time
      September 20, 2013, 1:17AM
  • It's just the beginning of the new Era. USA, England and many other countries are very wrong in keep this political system called Brazil on going. It's very clear for all back in Brazil and America that Dilma Roussef and her whole part are against these countries. It is clear that USA is been very idiot fighting heaps of countries around the world if everything is in Brazil and the people of Brazil are asking for full changes in it's administration.
    Think for yourself, if England or USA take the administration of Brazil it will become the main country in the world in a few years.
    BRAZIL IS THE BEST EXAMPLE THAT THE CAPITALISM CAN FAIL HARD IN THE WRONG HANDS!
    But heaps of Brazilians are billionaires now! And the numbers are increasing... Even in the hands of the most dumb-fashion-murders politicians in the world called "Brazilian Politicians!"
    I hope to see one day the Government and Criminal Political System in Brazil go down really hard and see I new administration in place!!! Millions of Brazilians want it too!
    DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE POLITICIANS, THE BRAZILIANS ARE WELCOMING YOU USA!

    Commenter
    Kayo
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    September 19, 2013, 3:22PM
    • The leading article in today's Age is about the Prime Minister shutting down the Climate Commission, which is an independent organisation whose function is to examine scientific evidence and advise the Australian public about climate change. If you look at the close to 300 readers comments a disturbingly large number are Gung ho supportive of the Prime Minister's action. The day before he sacked a head of department whose CV includes experience as a Director at CSIRO, PhD from the London School of economics, Hons in mathematics and one of the architects of the business innovation program that has helped create Australian companies like Atlassian and many others. Two things are frighteningly clear. Firstly that Mr. Abbott has absolutely no idea of how to prepare and protect Australia for the future and secondly that the majority of Australians think that science and technology is irrelevant to our future prosperity and that our only concern for the future is to lower our public debt.

      I would think that any thinking person working in science, technology or IT would be researching visa information about working overseas in countries where these skills are valued.

      Commenter
      DejaView
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      September 19, 2013, 3:37PM
      • That is a long bow. How can you say that closing the Climate Commission means everyone is against science and technology???

        Commenter
        Nick
        Location
        Perth
        Date and time
        September 19, 2013, 5:38PM
    • Go South America! You're a fine example to the world of standing up for your sovereignty. If only Australia would do the same.

      You're standing up for an Australian citizen, Julian Assange, too - something Mr Assange's own government can't manage.

      Commenter
      Diane
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      September 20, 2013, 7:43AM
      • Well done Brazil to stand up the self anointed bullies of the the world the good old US of A.

        Commenter
        Dingbat22
        Location
        Sydeney
        Date and time
        September 20, 2013, 9:29AM

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