Brazil to roll out national radio-chip ID/surveillance/logging for all vehicles


82 Responses to “Brazil to roll out national radio-chip ID/surveillance/logging for all vehicles”

  1. Boundegar says:

    Wow.  What could possibly go wrong?

  2. PhosPhorious says:

    “. . .  because its contractors will sign confidentiality agreements.”

    Well, that’s okay then!  It’s safe to relax our vigilance. . .  even for a moment.

    • Over the River says:

      I’m good, because the Brazil government, like every other country, company, etc. always keeps their word.

    • Jose says:

      We haven’t had any problems with the TSA, so I don’t see why Brazil will run into any problems.

    • Robert says:

      That reminds me of the time a few days ago I went to a Staples in Philadelphia to get some financial documents shredded. I was led to a counter where the helpful employee explained that my papers would be put in a locked garbage bin, owned by a contracted service, who would then shred my papers.

      I promptly grabbed my papers and ran like hell because of the cognitive dissonance. I want to be secure, so I want to shred my papers. But the secure service Staples offers is for someone else, out of your sight, to shred your papers for you. WTF?! Does anyone fall for that?

      • B E Pratt says:

         To answer you last question, almost certainly ‘yes’. Nobody ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of the American public [yes, I'm paraphrasing].

  3. invictus says:

    Seems excessively complicated. Why not just chip all the people, and monitor *their* movements, instead? Would be just as easy to implement, seeing how Brazilian primary healthcare is provided by the federal government. Next time you visit the doctor, you encounter a tiny prick and voila!

    And that way, any potential criminals who might think of riding bicycles or do something truly remarkable such as switching vehicle transponders (or broadcasting a DROP TABLE signal) are still going to be detected.

    • ImmutableMichael says:

      I’m mentally testing out variations on a “because people don’t kill people -cars do” theme, but coming up with nothing. Ergo elk, I think you’re on to something there.

      Ideally we’d wait until the technology can read people’s minds and broadcast thoughts back to the confidentiality-agreement-signing contractors before we chip everyone, but never let the perfect be the enemy of the good, I say.

    • Lemoutan says:

      Next time you visit the doctor, you encounter a tiny prick and voila!

      All together now:: Yes, but what’s he going to do?

    • dragonfrog says:

       Well, you already need ID to take intercity buses in Brazil – not just to show you’re not stealing someone else’s ticket.

    • MarkV says:

      “Would be just as easy to implement, seeing how Brazilian primary healthcare is provided by the federal government. Next time you visit the doctor, you encounter a tiny prick and voila!”

      Health care in Brazil is not “provided by the federal government.” It’s provided by doctors who are paid by the federal government. Doctors don’t magically jettison their oath and ethics depending on who signs their paychecks.

      • invictus says:

        Please re-tune your sarcasm detectors to at least deci-Swift sensitivity levels.

        • MarkV says:

          Obviously, the chipping part was sarcasm. The I quoted doesn’t read that way.

          • invictus says:

            Well, if you really want a serious response to that, then I find your assertion astonishingly naive.
            Oaths are not magical, unicorn-level constructs that prevent any and all behaviour you might deem unethical; both because Brazilian doctors are under no obligation to match your view on what is ethical, and because large groups of people can be convinced of any number of things — and this one isn’t even that much of a stretch. 

            The physical implantation needn’t even be done for the stated purposes of tracking. Instead, it’s intended to integrate into a national database of medical information, so that if you’re in an accident or are unconscious, the physicians can correctly pull up your medical history and allergies. It’s also the one guaranteed authentication method you will be able to use when accessing other government services, from driver’s license issuance to unemployment office registration.

            Or are you assuming this will be done without the patients’ consent and knowledge? There’s no need for that, either. The Brazilian parliament will pass a law requiring the presence of the ID chip in all patients who want to make use of government-provided medical treatment. Government might not administer the services, but it sure as hell pays for them, legislates them, and regulates them.

          • andygates says:

             The 80s called, they want their paranoia back.

          • Who wants to make use of it “government – provided medical treatment and other government services like tax collection”. What I see also is a huge lose of jobs for the 99% on top of the other aspects like voting.

          • invictus says:

            This comment thread called, it would like you to revisit it and pay attention this time. It’s really not as hard as you make it out to be.

      • duncancreamer says:

        They do in America. Of course, they get “gifts, food, trips, and free samples” too.

  4. trefecta says:

    How is this different than the info on the vehicle identification number & license plate? The VIN is usually placed so it can be seen by looking in the windshield…
    I suppose radioing in allows easier tracking than line of sight technologies, but this is probably cheaper than installing cameras on every corner, and developing and implementing proper computer vision technologies. 

    Not to say this isn’t a surveillance issue, but the info these things are giving out is something somebody could already find by using ‘cruder’ technologies.

    • dragonfrog says:

       You could just throw a piece of paper on the dash, and the VIN would be hidden.

      • MarkV says:

        Hiding, obscuring, or altering a vehicle’s identifying marks is itself a crime for that very reason.

        • Over the River says:

          Where?  I have always had a business card between the windshield and the VIN plate. It may be an Urban Legend, but one might be able to have a key made armed with your VIN.

    •  The possibility of being tracked crudely via physically available information is not the same as being actively tracked by more technical means. This is why the FBI’s use of GPS trackers on vehicles was deemed to be illegal even though they could have still just physically followed someone.

      Additionally this is active tracking with stored information. The VIN being on your car doesn’t mean that someone is tracking your every movement. Now someone actually is tracking your every movement. And now since someone doesn’t need to start suspiciously setting up cameras everywhere to watch where your VIN shows up all a malicious party has to do is get the data that the government is using. Which isn’t that hard to do… considering the security is often dubious and all you really need is to bribe one of the contractors into slipping you a USB stick.

      • MarkV says:

        “all a malicious party has to do is get the data that the government is using.”

        To what end? Presumably if someone wants to know where you go that badly, they’ll put a GPS tracker on your car or just, you know, follow you.

        • mjfgates says:

          When did identity theft become a Thing? Was that back when you could “just” pickpocket somebody, manually copy down all their numbers, and then quietly slide their wallet back into their pocket? No, it was not.

      • bcsizemo says:

        I always assumed the FBI’s issue was the fact they either were not getting proper clearance/warrants and/or the fact they were doing it without your consent.  (Which I realize is the point of tracking someone in the FBI’s case.)

    • smzyk says:

      In America we already have police cars with cameras that automatically read license plates and send the numbers to the computer to check against a hot list.

  5. markus baur says:

    “Brazil” could have been seen seen as a take on “1984″ 

  6. bcsizemo says:

    Honestly from a logistics stand point the whole idea of tracking and logging isn’t a bad idea.  Now, wait a minute before setting me on fire here…

    Now, example in US, in order to do traffic analysis you either need a track camera (like on interstates or heavy volume intersections) or someone has to physically place counters across the road to measure traffic volume.  Something like this would certainly be easier and less time consuming to log and track vehicles.  Extrapolate the data some and see how patterns emerge, do you really need to add another lane to a highway or would it be better to offer an alternate route?

    From the privacy side I really don’t have a problem with my car being identified, I mean I have a unique license plate already attached to said vehicle.  But what I don’t want are things like speed, my name, or other personal information being transmitted around.  If it’s nothing more than a VIN, license, info on the vehicle fine.  All of those can be gleamed by walking up to a car sitting in a parking lot, so I don’t see much of a privacy concern.  (And from the route/trip info if someone gain accessed to my GPS unit (standalone, not built into car) that could find out a lot of that as well.)

    My issue with surveillance in public isn’t the fact I’m being watched, it’s about the fact I’m being watched by another person.  No, not that I’m doing something creepy or wrong, but that people can impose their own thoughts and feeling on situations.  The human mind loves to play “connect the dots”, and from time to time that can lead to bad outcomes.

    • That_Anonymous_Coward says:

      Except that this becomes another database to be mined.
      By adding the plate number to each tag, you can track a target easily.  You don’t need that data to worry about traffic flows or other things.  It is not much different than some of the cases where they are using cell towers to track people without warrants.

      While it has good uses, at the same time one needs to look at all of the ways it can be misused and make sure those paths are dealt with before rolling it out.
      How would you deal with someone setting up their own antenna and looking for expensive cars as a shopping list for theft?
      How would you deal with people using the system for personal uses?  Checking up on a lover/spouse and tracking their movements?

      • bcsizemo says:

        Well is there much difference in this database than say what a cell phone company has or police department?  The general public doesn’t have access to those, but there are plenty of people who do.  So it is more or less the same argument.  An officer could do a look up of any person they choose, just as someone working with a cell company (assuming they had access) could track a cell phone.  All of which probably do happen today to some varying degree.  (Obviously there could be punishments for those people doing the looking, but that all depends on if they get caught.  My wife works in finance and I know from her their can be pretty serious consequences from doing checks on people who have not given you permission.)

        I agree it’s another database that could be used for illicit purposes, but those have been around for a fairly long time now.

        Besides don’t they have apps for tracking cell phones (ones that are actually legal)?

        • That_Anonymous_Coward says:

          This just strikes me as one of those moments when it should go into effect for the lawmakers first, until they work the bugs out.

        • dragonfrog says:

          A cellphone company has to know what tower each phone is closes to, or it can’t provide cell phone service – there’s just no way around collecting that information.  They could delete old data immediately whenever a phone moves from one tower to another.  The data could be used for a wrong purpose, but they also have a legitimate necessity to be there, so we have to either accept the risk, or not use cell phones.

          The roads don’t need to know what vehicles are moving on them in order to be drivable.  Roads need to be stable, flat, smooth, wide enough to allow motor vehicles to pass safely, and have sufficient drainage to not flood.  Data collection isn’t necessary – it’s a risk that has no excuse in necessity.

          • spejic says:

            The roads don’t need to know what vehicles are moving on them in order to be drivable.

            No, but there are legitimate uses for that data, especially in a nation that is expanding car use and needs to build its infrastructure. Knowing who is going where is a lot more useful than just responding to visibly jammed sections. And the nation is desperate – São Paulo has some of the worst traffic in the world and the nation has a horrific death rate from car accidents.

          • dragonfrog says:

             Normally, when people propose using individual point-to-point vehicle tracking to generate speeding tickets, it seems Orwellian.  In the context of Brazil, I can kind of see your point – anything to calm down Brazilian drivers…

      • MarkV says:

        “How would you deal with someone setting up their own antenna and looking for expensive cars as a shopping list for theft?”
        It seems like it would be overkill to set up an antenna and crack the encryption when they could just use their eyes like car thieves have been doing since cars were invented.

        • That_Anonymous_Coward says:

          Because we have unbreakable encryption…
          like on cell phone… er wait
          like on DVD’s… er wait
          like on websites… er wait

          Depending on the range of these devices a thief could cover much more ground than before, build a timeline of when the car is in a more vulnerable location.
          Figure out which cars are used by people who move money or other things of value and know their whole route systems.
          All without having to be seen watching…

          • NelC says:

            I find your moneymaking ideas intriguing, and wish to subscribe to the Portuguese edition of your newsletter.

          • That_Anonymous_Coward says:

            Se alguém com um avatar sexy pode pensar nessas coisas em 5 minutos, imagine o que os verdadeiros criminosos pode fazer … para não mencionar os ladrões.

          • NelC says:

            Sim, é verdade, por que inventar a roda quando você pode roubar um pouco?

          • That_Anonymous_Coward says:

            Infelizmente eu não acho que o Google Translate funciona bem o suficiente para criar um boletim informativo.

    • Lemoutan says:

      Seems to me you can do all that without having to know who’s driving the damn thing.

    • sarahnocal says:

       “My issue with surveillance in public isn’t the fact I’m being watched, it’s about the fact I’m being watched by another person.”

      I don’t understand this statement..

      • Boundegar says:

        Actually, at least 99% of surveillance cameras are not watched at all.  But they are recording. Yay for cheap data storage!

      • bcsizemo says:

        Well 99% or more of the time a camera is either going to show you what you need to know or nothing of importance.  Like someone getting attacked or an empty stretch of highway where the car you are looking for hasn’t passed.  It’s that 1% of the time (or less) where there is a grey zone that bothers me.  Where the car that someone is looking for is the same model as yours, but they can’t see the plates.  Or you walk past a camera and a crime happens somewhere in the vicinity of where you are.  You happen to fit a good physical profile of the person committing the crime.  Evidence is now building that you are a viable suspect even though you weren’t in the same place at the same time.  Like I said the human mind is wired to start connecting the dots.

        (Or perhaps I watch too much Law and Order…)

  7. Over the River says:

    Cory I agree the translated page says “Vehicles need to have electronic monitoring until 2014″ but it should read “Vehicles need to have electronic monitoring by 2014″

    While you can’t affect the translation, perhaps the correct translation on your link would give readers a better understanding of the law timeline.

  8. Over the River says:

    How can they expect to get the chip installed on the Brazilian cars by 2014? That’s a heck of a lot of cars.
    How many is a Brazilian cars?

  9. That Special Something says:

    I’m wondering if this is part of setting up security for the next Olympics.

  10. Itsumishi says:

    As long as you’re not doing anything wrong you’ve got nothing to worry about*!

    *exceptions to this rule include: corrupt officials; corrupt government; corrupt contractors; stalkers, creepy exes, etc that have access to the databases; hackers that access the databases; organised criminals that can access the database; and incompetent employees that allow sensitive information to fall into the wrong hands**.

    **other exceptions most likely exist that have not been identified in this list.

  11. eldritch says:

    Corrupt officials? In Brazil, the jewel of south america? Tell another one! And also give me another pack of cigarettes and a few more bottle of vodka too, while we wait. My men just might almost be done searching your belongings, no?

  12. riorico says:

    Not to worry. We’ll all be watched over by machines of loving grace. We have nothing to fear. Nothing can go wrong. Go wrong. Go wrong.

  13. Joe Tripician says:

    Here in São Paulo the Siniav system would greatly affect motoboys — the over 500,000 motorcycle messengers who keep the business of the city running.

    At least two die each day from preventable accidents. There are no dedicated traffic lanes, and the motoboys typically race at high speed in a space between two lanes of vehicles with only inches to spare. This space has been nicknamed “The Lane of Death”.

    The tracking system is one piece of several legislations (proposed, enacted, or challenged) — to increase road safety. Educational and training projects are also part of this mix, but some here feel that it’s not enough, while many motoboys and their union complain that it’s intrusive and costly. (Many work as freelancers, making an equivalent of $7. USD/hour  — which is still twice as high as the minimum wage.)

    Theft is a big problem, one that theoretically can be assuaged by this tracking system. In addition, there’s a small percentage of motoboys who engage in “extracurricular activities” (drug deliveries). As these typically pay around $30 – $50 USD per delivery, it’s a strong temptation.

    As noted in the comments, corruption and impunity are some of Brazil’s biggest problems, and abuse is certain to occur. I’m involved with a social inclusion and educational initiative (in partnership with Games For Change Latin America) that provides scholarship grants, education and training to a group of motoboys / motogirls.  This pilot program also includes media training and citizen journalism. Here is a report on the program from Globo TV:

    The project gave the motoboy being interviewed a GoPro HD helmet camera to record his daily life. He recorded hundreds of hours, the edited videos can be seen here:

    Many of these clips show motorist and pedestrian traffic violations. In fact, after this aired on TV, the police called the motoboy and asked to see all of the video he recorded of a traffic policeman using a non-hands-free cellphone while driving (illegal here).

    Big Brother may not be equivalent to Big Safety, so we feel the need to encourage and empower this emerging middle class with the tools to improve their lives.

    PS We’ll be starting an international crowd-funding campaign soon. Subscribe to the blog for updates:

  14. eldueno says:

    Big Brother Paulo will be watching.

  15. gd23 says:

    braaazil na nah na nah nah nah nah naaah

  16. Matt Briody says:

    As a cyclist, and a citizen of a country where people generally don’t fear their government, this looks like a good idea. 

    A really really good idea.

    Truly evil people can use systems far more primitive for nefarious ends.

    The magnitude of the problems created by car dependency are staggering. If the system could be made more efficient, then why not try. 
    There is often talk here about mandating a ‘right to privacy’ of the kind that would make, for instance, looking up an ex more specifically illegal. I mean, I think I get what you’re all worried about, but I just feel bad that something that could be so useful is thought of as being so draconian.

  17. tubacat says:

    Jeez – Brazil is turning into “Brazil”

  18. D.Souto says:

    Well Brazil is such a “circus” that Boing-Boing should consider starting a section dedicate to publish F*cked up news from the Country.

  19. andygates says:

    Well, it’ll be an interesting experiment.  The UK, US, Europe and so on haven’t the political will to push through something like this (they’re using ANPR where they want to track) so Brazil can be our test-case for national tracking.  Does it allow fair road pricing?  Does it get abused?  We can now refer to the Brazil model instead of making it up. 

    Gives me the shivers, though.  Will this data be subpoenaed to give location information in trials?  In realtime?  …and only by good guys?  We know the potential problems.  Be interesting to see if any benefits balance off.

  20. … seems as big brother in action to me.

  21. fcalmari says:

    As someone living in Brazil and working in the tech industry, I see this has two sides (as everything). First: Great idea. This will curb theft and speeding. Second: has an incredible potential for disaster. Who can garantee that the RFID tags can’t be cloned? I believe that anyone can think of what can happen if YOUR RFID tag is cloned (instead of your car stolen) and the user of your RFID speeds around town, commits robery (or anything else) and your car shows up on the screens as the criminal? I see a hard time for someone to prove their innocence (specially because the courts will assume that thr RFID isn’t clonable and you’ll have a hard time to prove where your car was). And it’ll be easy to do it… pass in front of your house or somewhere close enough to scan your car. Create the cloned RFID, swap the RFID from the bad guys car, let the car be scanned and recorded as coming from your house, go execute the robbery. After that go back to the point, change back the RFID tag and go calmly back to the hideout. Bingo, you’re the criminal and the robber can go calmly back home and relax. Easier than stealing a car from somebody because no one will see the crook stealing the RFID info. 

  22. About the paranoia: any regular Brazilian, like me, knows that our government is not that clever, neither have the organization or the resources to pull up any massive surveillance operation. So, I guess we are protected by our own incompetency. Our version of the CIA is small, stupid and always on strike. Our FBI is competent, but has others things to do… so, I really don’t mind if the government wants to put a chip on my car. Specially if it helps locating me if I’m kidnapped or something!

  23. duncancreamer says:

    Sounds like OnStar has finally grown up into the evil big brother I always knew it could be.

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