The company behind the Big Brother of Buenos Aires

One morning in November 2018, when he returned to his apartment in the Recoleta neighborhood (Buenos Aires) after the Senate session in which the budget had been approved, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner found two people in the corner putting up three cameras and a dome. They had no identification, but told their custody that they belonged to a company called Danaide SA and that they had been sent by the Ministry of Security of the City of Buenos Aires. Instantly the men received a call and left. “Weird, right?” The vice president then tweeted to close the story of what had happened.

On April 3 of the following year, just six minutes after the specifications with their offer were published, the same company was hired without a tender to implement the software of the facial recognition system disseminated through the streets of Buenos Aires. It is supposed to be used only to identify fugitives from justice but it turns out that, according to Judge Andrés Gallardo, it was implemented to collect biometric data in offices of the Government of Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, of more than 7 million people, including some who are well known, from President Alberto Fernández, Fermández de Kirchner herself, opposition leaders, human rights figures such as Estela de Carlotto, trade unionists, judges, social figures and journalists.

as he was able to reconstruct Page 12, it is a company in the name of only two people, which lacks offices, has a negligible share capital and exorbitant profits without distributing dividends. Now his role is under investigation. In addition to managing all the cameras in the City, in December of last year Ausa Autopistas Urbanas gave it the “monitoring and control service for highways and buildings.”

The espionage of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in particular and of many other leaders was verified in two judicial investigations, although as is known, two federal chamberlains used in a ruling the theory that those who carried out intelligence tasks acted on their own, an absurdity that is in full review.

At the time of the episode of the cameras on the corner of the vice president’s house, the Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) had access to all the cameras in the City of Buenos Aires. I had gotten a judicial permission with the excuse of holding the G-20 and other international events who were also a screen to spy on journalists and social organizations. They invoked, to display that non-existent panopticon, terrorist alarms even on their own leaders.

It was the time of the great milestones of the illegal intelligence of the Government of Mauricio Macri. As stated in the case involving the spies known as the Super Mario Bros, when the former president shouted to the heavens at what was happening meters from her window, the agents made a comment in their chat about Danaide SA: “It’s the one that works for the City Police”, the force where they came from. As will be seen, it is a technological supply emporium on which the Larreta administration relies, inspired by one of the favorite practices of the macrista school, to keep us all well watched.

The use that has been made of biometric data “is espionage and is criminal”, warned this Saturday the comptroller of the AFI, Cristina Caamaño. “They consider espionage, having data, as part of power. Knowing who you meet, where you are going, who you are with. That is why they have done what they did in the AFI and now this is happening in the city of Buenos Aires,” she added.

Danaide SA is in charge of the video surveillance structure of the City of Buenos Aires and provides the software for its nearly 15,000 cameras. The facial recognition system was introduced through the window, in 2019, with a resolution promoted then by Diego Santilli, former Minister of Justice and Security, which modified the Public Security Law without any deliberation. The argument was that it would only be used to search for people who are fugitives from justice, but it was already clear that this would not be the case. At that time it rained questions from local and international organizations, but nothing mattered.

The Observatory of Argentine Computer Law (ODIA) was the first organization to request access to information and finally file a complaint. From the outset, he noticed a detail that he recorded in his complaint: the specifications and conditions were published on April 3, 2019 at 7:02 p.m. “Six minutes later, with truly enviable speed, the aforementioned statement was authorized by the intervening authorities through the signing of resolution 2019-50-GCBA-SSGA, really striking deadlines for the usual standards.”

The hiring was published on April 22 of that year. The original direct contracting, without any evaluation, discussion or bidding, was $1,511,300. Then a modification was made that took the amount to a little more than half on which ODIA also tracked an explanation that does not appear.

In terms of the violation of privacy, criminalization and the attack on multiple rights, they also warned from the beginning about this technology used to carry out mass surveillance due to “its low rate of effectiveness, 52%, the tendency to discriminate by ethnic , false positives and failure to comply with due process, since a computer system is the one that dictates a kind of guilty verdict,” explained ODIA’s lawyer, Rodrigo Iglesias.

The circuit

The Buenos Aires Ministry of Justice and Security has an agreement with the national Ministry of Justice to be able to access the National Consultation of Rebellions and Captures (Conarc) base, which has some 40,000 people. At the same time there is an agreement with the Renaper (National Registry of Persons). The Porteña security portfolio and the Urban Monitoring Center request biometric data from Renaper, in theory when there is a judicial disposition involved or a fugitive has to be tracked.

What Judge Gallardo detected, and therefore decided to suspend the identification system, is that biometric data of at least 7 million people migrated to the Buenos Aires offices. A few days before, Minister Marcelo D’Alessandro had offered through Twitter, in response to protests from social organizations and picketers, the use of “the city’s video surveillance system,” which gave the clue that, evidently, the The objective is not only to detect fugitives but also to generate forms of criminalization.

Judge Gallardo conducted searches and gave D’Alessandro an ultimatum to explain why, how and for what biometric data of millions of people were extracted and usedeven the president of the nation, with strangely applied procedures, sometimes at dawn and repeatedly.

This opened up a big question mark and he suspects that investigations are beginning to be made into the dependencies from which the biometric data analysis system is operated, the people who can access it and the company that deals with the cameras and the software that processes all information. That is why Danaide SA became the focus of investigations. The magistrate ordered an expert opinion that will continue this Monday, in charge of the Airport Security Police (PSA), which will extract the data from the seized servers of the Urban Monitoring Center and the Ministry.

The software used provided by Danaide SA is called Ultra IP whose facial recognition component would have been developed by a Russian firm, NtechLab, specialized in this technology and questioned, for example, by Human Rights Watch, for throwing a large number of erroneous matches on children.

“D’Alessandro said that no data can be entered manually. But we have seen that this is not the case: on January 22, for example, there were 82 registrations that were given manually. They were uploaded to the ministry in the identification system the biometric data of the Renaper that were not in the Conarc base. That arises from one of our requests for access to information. There are peaks of requests for information on weekends, which are done by hand,” said the lawyer Churches.

Beatriz Busaniche, from the Vía Libre Foundation, one of the various organizations involved in Gallardo’s file, recalls that “something that the United Nations demanded was never done, when the rapporteur Joseph Cannataci came, which was an impact assessment on the privacy” and “it would be necessary to investigate well what the contracting conditions are with the company Danaidebecause a service continued to be paid even when the system was disconnected due to the pandemic situation, there are many dark spots”.

the mysterious company

Danaide SA has two visible shareholders: Hernán Carzalo and Juan Agustín Carzalo. The last balance accessible before the General Inspectorate of Justice is that of 2019, where they declared earnings for 517,646,407 pesos with the curiosity that they are not distributed among the shareholders but go to an “unallocated results” account. The social capital is barely 12,000 pesos and had a net worth of 182,937,818 pesos on the date in question. He also did not own real estate and the place where an alleged headquarters operates is a rented warehouse.

The most amazing expenses are in “salaries and wages”: they recorded paying 39,579,062 pesos at that time, three years ago, in addition to “Subcontracting of services” for 2,645,351 pesos and “mobility and per diems” for 482,905. He also had import expenses: 13,303,678 pesos He declared an account with 24 million in the Banco Provincia and few debts.

In addition to managing the entire surveillance network of the City of Buenos Aires, in 2021 Danaide SA applied for the “comprehensive Highway and Building Monitoring and Control service” of Ausa Urban Highways. There were only two companies that offered, but their offer, for 406,801,530 pesos, was the best.

On its website, the firm boasts: “Danaide has implemented its video surveillance solution for Urban Highways, which has several remote video points, a monitoring center and several operation posts distributed throughout the tolls.” This appears in a tab under the title of “smart cities” (intelligent cities), where the company also shows off its “The Comprehensive Video Surveillance Plan of the city of Buenos Aires” and says that it is “a project designed in 2019 with the objective of optimizing crime prevention tasks and generating more efficient investigative processes through the use of film evidence”.

The reference to crime is striking: when the identification system was incorporated by law, one was also incorporated for crime prevention and another forensic system to preserve images. Lawyer Iglesias explained to this newspaper that the last two “were never implemented and never regulated,” which leads to the assumption that –without any supervision or regulation– the abuses, the discretionary identification of people in public spaces and criminalization are just around the corner and can easily become, as these days, the axis of the political campaign that is increasingly shifted to the right.

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