Edit: Ecuador’s free software association has published an open letter to the President and the national assembly opposing this new law. You can read the letter (in Spanish) here, and sign it by emailing email@example.com
Ecuador’s new Penal Code is being debated this week in the National Assembly. The bill is enormous, but because the debate period it is so short (a few days), and voting is this week, I’d like to highlight a very specific set of articles which I find hugely problematic.
At a time when the world is discussing how best to protect our personal privacy from massive online spying care of the United States and the like, Ecuador is asking its telecom internet providers and telecom resellers (such as the Internet cafés where millions without home internet access go online) to collect massive amounts of user data and store it indefinitely.
Here is my translation of the proposed new laws. Art 485.2 refers to telecom-service resellers like Internet cafés, but also anyone who provides an internet or voice connection “for free”, meant to refer to those who offer public wifi zones (restaurants, mall food courts, bus stops like the new wifi zones at Metrovía stations in Guayaquil, etc). But technically, any individual who lends their internet connection to another party must register user data on that third party. The new laws, as written:
Art. 485.- Conservation of data and registries. The conservation of data will be guided by the following rules:
1.Telecommunications service providers and distributors should keep data on their clients or users, as established by a contract, and conserve the integrity of all data regarding phone numbers, static and dynamic IP addresses, as well as the traffic over a connection, access to transactions and information about the wireless communication connections that are made and the connection path for a minimum of six months, to aid with relevant investigations. The same precepts will be followed for the interception of communications.
2. Rate-payers of telecommunications services who share or distribute their data connection or voice line to third parties, either as a commercial service or freely, must store data related to the third party in a physical register and conserve data about the user, date and start and end times of connection, for at least six months, by installing security video cameras, to facilitate any corresponding investigation.
4. Judges, upon request of a district attorney, can compel reports on the data that is registered, archives, including electronic. The breach of this requirement, the forgery of the report delivered to law enforcement, or the concealment of the data will result in penal responsibility if the infraction is considered a crime.
When I arrived in this new city after an eight hour bus ride and showed up on the Spaniard’s doorstep, he had been asleep.
“Wow, I can’t believe you came. After only two calls.” Candid. I was a little surprised to find myself there in his living room (now my living room) at 5 a.m., too, to be honest.
I had left my job at The Telegrafo newspaper in Guayaquil, packed up my apartment, and moved to Quito, in the space of three days. All because of a couple of VOIP conversations with a mysterious group calling themselves the FLOK Society.
The FLOK folks, right now, consist of a couple of Spanish hacktivists, an Ecuadorian medical doctor-turned-coordinator, a Spanish philosopher who is working remotely, and a newly-arrived Belgian theorist who researches peer-to-peer networks and their implications for a new economy. I’m joining the team to provide communications support, in English and Spanish.
Their grand idea which grabbed my attention was this: the belief that a small group of people, working openly and collaboratively, with financial and organizational support from some of Ecuador’s key government ministries, can spark a global process big and bold enough to shift the economy of a whole country off of fossil fuels and towards an open knowledge economy.
During the VOIP call that snagged me, project chief Daniel Vázquez had said that everyone involved was being asked to put ten times as much effort into this than anything they’d done before. Because the goal we have set for ourselves is something that has never happened.
FLOK Society is, at its core, a research project occurring within a university: Ecuador’s post-graduate-focused state school the IAEN. But the parameters of the project push us to seek as many partnerships with any other schools, entities, social organizations, and communities with a stake in the project. Which is to say, there is an open invitation, and there soon will be proactive attempts to court, input and collaboration from all Ecuadorians and any international group that shares the values of FLOK and is interested in the theory that by creating and empowering peer networks a country can create a new economic matrix.
There are so many hackers involved, even at this early stage, because FLOK (which stands for “Free/Libre Open Knowledge”) proposes a fundamental disruption of society. FLOK’s reason-to-be is to create a legal, economic and social framework for an entire country (Ecuador) that is consistent with principles that are the basic foundations of the Internet: peer-to-peer collaboration and shared knowledge.
I’ve only been here a couple days, so I’m still learning the dreams the FLOK folks are dreaming for Ecuador, but so far it definitely feels like the right place to be and the best thing to be doing.
FLOK’s base document roughly translated into English
FLOK’s beta-phase website
"If living unfreely but comfortably is something you’re willing to accept, and I think it many of us are it’s the human nature; you can get up everyday, go to work, you can collect your large paycheck for relatively little work against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching your shows."
"But if you realize that that’s the world you helped create and it’s gonna get worse with the next generation and the next generation who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is so long as the public gets to make their own decisions about how that’s applied."”