Neocolonialist practices

Image: Ricardo Lima
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By GERSON ALMEIDA*

The minister Luís Roberto Barroso and the technology fetish

In his first session as president of the National Council of Justice (CNJ), minister Luís Roberto Barroso revealed that he had held a meeting with representatives from Amazon, Microsoft and Google, when he made three orders to “Big Techs”: a program for the process summary; a tool similar to ChatGPT for exclusive legal use; and a single interface that allows the electronic judicial systems of all courts to function in harmony. The objective, according to him, is “to do everything possible to collaborate with the courts […] and help each of us to serve the country in the best possible way” and highlighted his “obsession with improving the quality of the service we provide to Brazilian society” (https://www.cnj.jus.br).

In addition to good intentions, the initiative exposes the success of the widely dominant discourse, which autonomizes technology and its increasingly monopolistic companies from any political, social, economic and geopolitical aspect, despite all evidence showing the opposite. What has been characterized by several authors as the “fetish of technology”, to highlight that, like any commodity, when technology enters the market circuit it is “a specific social relationship between men themselves, which for them takes the form “phantasmagoric of a relationship between things” (MARX, The capital).

This conception prevails, even though we receive daily information about new steps in the escalation of the US dispute to maintain supremacy over cutting-edge microchip and semiconductor technologies. Which should dispel any plausible doubt about the role of “Big Techs” as advanced armies in a fierce dispute for technological supremacy and data control, an industry that is already considered more valuable than Oil and, undoubtedly, more strategic .

Interestingly, on the same day that Minister Barroso informed the CNJ about his order, the American Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, announced additional measures by the American government to prevent “Chinese access to advanced semiconductors […] and obliges companies to notify any sale made to China (magazine Exam, 17/10/23). Measures that increase the submission of trade in cutting-edge technologies to US geopolitical and economic interests and affect all companies in the world that produce equipment with around 25% American technology in their components.

Just a week later, the Chinese government began implementing its new personal data protection law to “protect(r) citizens against private entities”, regulating what “Big Tech” can do with the information of Chinese citizens and defining that they need to collaborate with the Beijing authorities (all cellular.com.br), when necessary. This would be enough to banish naivety in the treatment of topics that are so sensitive to the national interest, such as the set of data on the Brazilian justice system.

But it is always good to remember that Edward Snowden's revelations revealed the practice of systematic espionage carried out around the world by the US National Security Agency (NSA), through programs capable of capturing everything the user does on the internet, including the content of emails and websites visited. In Brazil alone, Snowden revealed that 29 phones belonging to the most important authorities were illegally spied on, including those of President Dilma, the Central Bank, diplomats, large companies, etc.

Knowledge of these neocolonialist practices should generate a positive and unified reaction from power leaders in Brazil in defense of national sovereignty, with increased funding for research and production of technologies that help defend the country's interests and wealth, the which means becoming less dependent and vulnerable in areas of strategic knowledge for all areas. An important step in this direction had been taken with the creation, in Lula's second government, in 2008, of the only semiconductor factory in the Southern Hemisphere, the National Center for Advanced Electronic Technology (Ceitec), which was liquidated in 2021, under the government of Bolsonaro. Exactly at the moment when experts projected that the company was close to finding its economic balance and already had highly qualified professionals in the development of chip technology.

Now, after the civilizational blackout and the abandonment of the sense of sovereignty that we experienced in the last period (Temer and Bolsonaro), Lula's recent decision to reverse the Ceitec dissolution process, signed on November 06th, opens a new window of opportunities that we can no longer waste.

Minister Luís Roberto Barroso's order to “Big Techs” must be submitted to democratic public debate and revised, so that instead of gracefully handing over information about the Brazilian justice system to private companies, with an extensive history of collaboration with the State department American, let us bet on mobilizing intelligence from all sectors of the country, with the firm intention of overcoming the period in which authorities saluted flags other than the national one and gave up any ambition to place the country in a proud position in this changing world .

*Gerson Almeida, sociologist, former councilor and former secretary of the environment of Porto Alegre, He was national secretary of social articulation in the Lula 2 government.


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