The ANSES pension fund. Photo via abogadosrosario

The Macri administration yesterday granted the Communication Secretariat access to the National Social Security Administration (ANSES) database, which contains roughly 16 million Argentines’ personal information. The reason? To allow the Secretariat to customize its public communication policies, they tell us. Members of the opposition were quick to criticize the decision, arguing it actually invades citizens’ privacy, but we’ll get to that later.

According to resolution 166 published yesterday in the Official Bulletin, ANSES will periodically send over information about citizens’ names, last names, ID numbers, addresses, phone numbers, emails, dates of birth, civil statuses and education levels. “It is essential for the government to identify, evaluate and analyze the different problems or matters of interest in every region of the country, as well as understand and detect social and cultural variables that allow to incorporate federal diversity in public communication,” reads a passage of the resolution, which goes on to inform that the agreement between organizations will last two years.

Government sources told Clarín they are specifically seeking to go from a “unidirectional style of communication to one where the message reaches whoever it has to.” “For example, when we launched the awareness campaign against dengue (a disease transferred by a certain type of mosquitoes), we had a single message. It doesn’t have to be like that. In the northern part of the country there were people who contracted the disease, in the center we had to talk about prevention and in the south we understand there are no mosquitoes,” the source said.

In consequence, the resolution explains the Macri administration will attempt to improve its communication style through different methods of communication, which go from social media interaction to “phone calls or physical conversations, so as to achieve individual and instantaneous contact with citizens.”
Even though the administration assured it won’t be using “sensitive data” and that its actions will be regulated by Law 25.326 — which protects personal information — the decision was met by harsh criticism, especially from opposition lawmakers, who expressed their concern over the possibility of having the government use the decision to spy on citizens.
Renewal Front (FR) National Deputy Graciela Camaño told DyN agency she will go to court to overturn the decision, as it “violates the habeas data right [by which a citizen can request personal information be eliminated from a certain database if he or she considers it violates the right to privacy.]”
National Deputy Graciela Camaño
National Deputy Graciela Camaño
However, she might not succeed. The same law the administration assured will protect people’s personal information also establishes that “direct transfers of information between State organizations regarding their duties” don’t need citizens’ consent. However, Raúl Martínez Fazzalari, a lawyer who specializes in communications law, told Clarín that people should be able to refuse to have their information passed around “because it’s being used for advertizing.”  “I’m concerned about the Secretariat not having the same ability to control the information as the ANSES has,” he added.
On his end, Leftist Workers’ Front (FIT) leader Nicolás del Caño called the decision an “affront to democratic freedoms.” “They [the Macri administration] want to get that personal data to have that level of control they aspire to.”