Brazilian judge lifts suspension of WhatsApp

Vinod Sreeharsha – The New York Times, 05/03/2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — A judge lifted the nationwide suspension of WhatsApp in Brazil on Tuesday, allowing the popular messaging service owned byFacebook to get up and running again.

The ruling, from Judge Ricardo Múcio Santana de Abreu Lima, overturned a lower court order that had led to WhatsApp being blocked on Monday afternoon. The suspension was supposed to last 72 hours.

Judge Múcio is one of 13 judges on the higher court in the northeastern state of Sergipe, where WhatsApp has become embroiled in an organized crime and drug trafficking case. Authorities are seeking information for the case from the messaging service, but WhatsApp has not complied with requests for data, leading to the court order on Monday.

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Brazil’s science sector undergoes worst crisis in 20 years

Herton Escobar – O Estado de S. Paulo, 8/30/2015

With no federal funds, agencies cancel notices and delay payment of projects

The economic crisis that is troubling Brazil has not only caused fiscal adjustments, but has also caused cuts to the budgets of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) and to the Ministry of Education (MEC), of 25% and 9%, respectively.

The sector also suffers with the losses of oil royalties and with the plunder of resources reserved for research, which were used as payment for scholarships of the Brazilian program “Science Without Borders” [Ciencia Sem Fronteiras]. In 2014 alone, the program drained R$2.5 billion out of the National Development Fund for Science and Technology (FNDCT).

The atmosphere is the worst it’s been in the past 20 years, according to the president of the Brazilian Society for Science Progress, Helena Nader. Without cash in stock, funding agencies are cancelling notices and delaying payment of thousands of projects.

The cause of the problem lies within the FNDCT, a huge sectorial funds portfolio, which is the main funding resource in the country designed for research. With the 2014 changes in oil royalties’ distribution, the pre-salt resources that nourished the Sectorial Fund for Petroleum (CT-Petro) began to flow to the Social Fund, which is not a part of FNDCT and is not dedicated to science. With this, the amount collected by CT-Petro fell from R$1.4 billion in 2013 to R$140 million in 2014 – and probably won’t even reach R$30 million this year.

FNDCT’s total amount collected therefore also fell from R$4.5 billion in 2013 to R$3.2 billion in 2014; and over R$1 billion of this amount was reserved for the “Science without Borders” program. This scenario is aggravated by the appreciation of the dollar against the Brazilian real, and by recession, which reduce tax collections and impact the budget of foundations that support research.

The National Counsel for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq)’s budget this year foresees a transfer of R$1,22 billion from FNDCT, but only one fourth of this (R$330 million) was received thus far. The Counsel is delaying notice payments approved last year and cancelling or postponing new openings. Only six notices were opened this year, compared to 51 in 2014 and 91 in 2013.

Many scientists are waiting for payments and financing for their approved projects. They remain in line, but having to pay these researches out of their own pockets. Thus, “the priority right now is to pay what is owed before launching new things,” says Olivia, former president of CNPq.

In the academic sphere, in order to refrain from canceling scholarships, a department of the MEC had to cut 100% of capital resources and 75% of the cost of funds for post-grad programs across the country. “We had to adjust to our new reality,” says the director of the Programs and Scholarships of the MEC, Marcio de Castro Silva.

Read article in Portuguese here

Brazil begins laying its own Internet cables to avoid U.S. surveillance

Nancy Scola – The Washington Post, 11/03/2014

There’s a new wrinkle in Brazil’s plan to build a $185 million undersea fiber-optic cable that would connect it to Portugal and help the country avoid surveillance by U.S. intelligence authorities, reports Bloomberg: The cable will be built without the help of any U.S. companies.

While Brazil arguably led the world’s outrage over the Edward Snowden disclosures, its ire has mellowed a bit in recent months. But that Brazilian authorities are still talking about a U.S.-free undersea link to Europe only underscores something that may be especially destructive to U.S. tech companies: Once you write foreign policy into fiber-optic cables, it stays that way for a long, long time.

To be sure, under President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil reacted strongly negatively, in ways big and little, to the Snowden disclosures in September 2013: Rousseff railed at the United Nations  about Brazil’s commitment to “redouble its efforts to adopt legislation, technologies and mechanisms to protect us from the illegal interception of communications and data.”

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Google, Microsoft Expose Brazil’s Favelas

Will Connors – The Wall Street Journal, 9/25/2014

For decades, favelas, the dense working-class neighborhoods that now house nearly a quarter of this city’s population, didn’t exist on city maps.

Officials considered the informal settlements dangerous eyesores, and they refused to send in cartographers or provide official addresses. But frustrated residents began mapping the communities themselves, hoping to pressure authorities into providing more public services.

Now those efforts are getting a boost from two of the world’s biggest technology companies. Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have started mapping efforts in recent months in several Rio favelas. Relying largely on community groups, the companies plan to map everything from twisting, narrow alleyways to hole-in-the-wall laundromats.

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Brazil building Amazon observation tower to monitor climate change impact

Agence France-Presse – The Guardian, 09/14/2014

Brazil is building a giant observation tower in the heart of the Amazon to monitor climate change and its impact on the region’s sensitive ecosystem, a newspaper has reported. The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory is a project of Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research and Germany’s Max Planck Institute, O Estado de São Paulo said.

The tower, which will rise 325 metres from the ground, will be equipped with high-tech instruments and an observatory to monitor relationships between the jungle and the atmosphere. It will gather data on heat, water, carbon gas, winds, cloud formation, carbon absorption and weather patterns.

The project has been seven years in the making, with a site finally being selected far from any human presence, about 100 miles from Manaus, capital of the state of Amazonas, project coordinator Antonio Manzi told the newspaper.

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Construction begins on first-ever undersea fiber optic cable from Brazil to the U.S.

Richard Byrne Reilly – VentureBeat, 09/10/2014

Seaborn Networks and Alcatel Lucent are taking their broadband and data concerns underwater. Under the Atlantic Ocean, to be specific.

The two companies are planning the first-ever submarine fiber optic cable connecting Brazil to the U.S. The cable, which will run from the Brazilian city of Fortleza, on that country’s Eastern coast, to Wall Street in New York City, will help handle the increasing data flows between the two nations.

The cable, called the Seabras-1, is being developed by John Schwartz and his team at Seaborn. Seabras-1 will transmit data, including cell traffic and digital feeds, at 60 terabits per second.

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Brazilian government launches election apps

Angelica Mari – ZDNet, 7/21/2014

As campaigning for the upcoming general election kicks off in Brazil, the government has launched a range of apps intended to improve citizen engagement and inclusion in the process.

The Superior Electoral Court (TSE in the Portuguese acronym) will make three mobile apps available to provide information about candidates and the actual voting process, as well as results. All apps will be available in Android, iOS and Windows Phone versions.

The first tool – and perhaps the most interesting of the three apps – was launched on Friday (18) and provides detailed information about the candidates. The elections to be held in October will not only elect the president, but also the national Congress, state governors and state legislatures and involve some 24,000 candidates across the country.

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Brazil eyeing Japan’s help in oil project: reports

AFP – The New Age, 7/21/2014

Brazil plans to use Japanese technology in building a floating structure and ships for its huge offshore oil development project, media reports said Sunday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will announce the use of Japanese technology in building a so-called “logistics hub” for the project when they meet in Brazil on August 1, according to a draft of their joint statement, Kyodo news agency said.

The massive floating structure under consideration would be about 300 metres (984 feet) long and 100 metres wide, Kyodo said, citing government sources.

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Smartphones represent 76 percent of all phones in Brazil

Angelica Mari – ZDNet, 7/14/2014

Smartphones now represent the majority of the mobile phone market in Brazil, according to recent research.

IDC data compiled by the Brazilian Electrical and Electronics Industry Association (Abinee) suggests that only 24 percent of all mobiles in the country are feature phones.

Brazil has seen the domination of its mobile phone market growing steadily every month over the last year, apart from a minor setback of a percentage point in January 2014.

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NSA surveillance may cause breakup of internet, warn experts

Matthew Taylor, Nick Hopkins & Jemima Kiss – The Guardian, 11/01/2013

The vast scale of online surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden is leading to the breakup of the internet as countries scramble to protect private or commercially sensitive emails and phone records from UK and US security services, according to experts and academics.

They say moves by countries, such as Brazil and Germany, to encourage regional online traffic to be routed locally rather than through the US are likely to be the first steps in a fundamental shift in the way the internet works. The change could potentially hinder economic growth.

“States may have few other options than to follow in Brazil’s path,” said Ian Brown, from the Oxford Internet Institute. “This would be expensive, and likely to reduce the rapid rate of innovation that has driven the development of the internet to date … But if states cannot trust that their citizens’ personal data – as well as sensitive commercial and government information – will not otherwise be swept up in giant surveillance operations, this may be a price they are willing to pay.”