Case 3 - Undermined by surveillance
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Maria is a community leader who is fighting against the environmental damage resulting from mining in the central region of Brazil. She is a lawyer and has a respected role in her community. For years she has supported the community struggles with her knowledge and ability to organize groups to overcome the repressions and abuses of a particular company.
In the last year, some employees from the mining company who were friends with members of her family started to spread rumors about her having an extra marital affair. She had separated from her husband and was getting legally engaged to someone else but the rumors that she was cheating resulted in a deep mistrust of her within her community. Maria felt that her role as a community leader and activist was therefore undermined
Maria started to receive death threats and with little support from her community, she felt obliged to leave her town. After some months, an investigative journalist visited her city to find out more about the mining effects in the region and facts about Maria's story were revealed.
The journalist discovered that Maria had been closely monitored by the mining company for the last 5 years. Her phone and email had been tapped, and the company had essentially had access to all her communication. Thus key company employees could spread rumors and cause mistrust in her group because of information they could gather from her email messages and online activities.
The feeling of having her privacy invaded for many years undermined her confidence in using digital communication tools and just after a digital security training has started to make her feel more in control of her digital communication. She now uses a more secure email account to communicate important information and is still getting to know how to make her data and devices more secure against surveillance and hacking.
Eventually, Maria's community recognized her integrity in the work she has done and continues to do, especially when the journalist published an article about the illegal surveillance of the mining company. However, she still doesn't feel safe enough to return to her city with her family, and hopes that she will soon be able to.
See the following chapters for resources related to this case:
- Keep Your Online Communication Private
- Use Smartphones More Securely
- Protect Yourself from Malware and Hackers
Note: These case studies were collected through primary research by Tactical Tech and its consultants. Some details have been withheld or changed to protect anonymity.