I NEVER thought that Brazil would have laws that were more police state than Saudi Arabia or China, but I was proved wrong a few weeks ago.
My friend Thiago and I were looking at laptops at FNAC, the French chain of electronics and book stores, in ParkShopping when we decided that we needed to check the Internet to find the closest Peugeot dealer. We walked over to the cell phone section where various mobile phone carriers had laptops on display with matching mobile Internet modem sticks. No one was around to help us and the computers were shut off, so we continued walking towards the in-store cafe that had a few computer terminals set-up for Internet access.
"We'd like to access the Internet please," Thiago told the cashier.
"Okay, but you have to register first with us before we let you access the Internet," she said.
In Brazil, registering for anything involves showing a government photo ID and giving ones CPF number, which is a tax payers number that everyone living in Brazil, native or foreign, is required to have. Since Thiago didin't have his ID with him, I volunteered to register to get access to the Internet. I handed over my UAE driver's license and my CPF card.
"You're going to have to give me your home address, phone number and birth date," the cashier warned me, perhaps sensing that this wasn't going to end well.
"Okay," I said.
"Father's and mother's name?" she asked me.
"What?! Why do you need that? I'm not 10-years-old," I protested.
"Ah no! That's too much. Let's go Rasheed," Thiago said.
"Do you also want my grandparents' names?" I asked sarcastically. "Even in Saudi Arabia they don't ask for this much personal information!"
"I'm sorry sir, but I have to collect all of this information, because if I don't my company could be fined R$3,000 and they would take it out of my salary," she explained.
According to the cashier it is a Distrito Federal law that requires them to collect so much personal information from each Internet user. A piece of paper she let me look at said it was law no. 3,437 that was passed on the 9th of September of 2004.
"I can't believe they have such a law here," I told Thiago as we walked away. "It's worse than China."
We eventually got a Claro saleswoman to let us use Google on her laptop to find the car dealership. And that too without giving her our parents', grandparents' or even our first names.