How Bolsonaro loads the dice ahead of the presidential runoff


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Laura Quirin
The Brazilian Report


How Bolsonaro loads the dice ahead of the presidential runoff
On October 22, 2022, The Brazilian Report exposed a data breach involving the private information of Auxílio Brasil beneficiaries, a cash-transfer scheme aimed at Brazil's poorest families with a maximum per capita income of $44 per month. The personal data of at least 3.7 million beneficiaries, representing 20 percent of all program recipients and 2 percent of Brazil's population, was exposed. Bank representatives used this data to propose payroll deduction loans to these people during the presidential runoff campaign. The Brazilian Report verified that a single banking correspondent had access to the private data, which included individuals from 21 of Brazil's 27 states. The Brazilian Report cross-checked entries with public databases and contacted multiple people on the list to check if the information was valid. Every single entry was a match. Before last year's elections, the administration of former President Jair Bolsonaro launched a program that allowed individuals enrolled in aid programs like Auxílio Brasil to apply for payroll deduction loans. This was part of a government effort to foster positive economic sentiment. The Auxílio Brazil cash-transfer scheme targeted Brazil's poorest families, with a maximum per capita income of $44 per month. Recipients could commit up to 40 percent of their monthly revenue to loans. Multiple economists warned that, despite the immediate financial relief these loans can provide, they could easily become debt traps, with annual rates of up to 51.1 percent a year. The payroll loan program was discontinued in January 2023, following criticism from experts and a declaration of its illegality by the Federal Prosecution Office. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who won the 2022 elections, launched a new program to help Brazilians who took out the loan to renegotiate debts. Relying on The Brazilian Report's findings, Federal Judge Marco Aurélio de Mello Castrianni issued an order on September 6, 2023, instructing the Citizenship Ministry, state-owned bank Caixa, the Brazilian Data Protection Authority (ANPD), and Dataprev (the public firm responsible for the monthly payroll of pensioners and welfare beneficiaries) to locate and contain the leak, and to improve their data protection measures. The public entities must also pay BRL 15,000 (USD 3,000) in compensation to each person whose data was leaked, and lodge BRL 40 million into a public fund that aims to repair damages related to consumers, goods, and rights. Caixa must report the situation to each of its beneficiaries, and ANPD is required to begin its own audit of the issue.
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