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Brazil begins making arrests in cellphone monitoring investigation


Police in Brazil conducted searches and made two arrests Friday in an investigation targeting members of the country’s intelligence agency who were suspected of using spy technology to track cellphones without judicial authorization, the Federal Police said in a statement.

Officials at the Brazilian Intelligence Agency, which is known by its Portuguese acronym ABIN, allegedly used the GPS-based software during the first three years of former President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration to monitor the phones of his opponents, journalists and lawmakers, Brazilian media reported.

O Globo newspaper first reported in March about the alleged illegal use of the FirstMile software developed by Israeli company Cognyte. The newspaper did not disclose the source of its information. The Federal Police declined a request for comment by The Associated Press on Friday.

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Police arrested two people and carried out 25 search warrants across the states of Sao Paulo, Santa Catarina, Parana and Goias, and in the Federal District where Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, is located.

Brazilian flag

The Brazilian flag is seen prior to a FIFA Women’s World Cup match, Melbourne, Australia, Aug. 2, 2023. (Alex Pantling – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

The geolocation tool used by ABIN “repeatedly invaded” Brazil’s telephone network, and the intrusive software was “acquired with public resources,” the Federal Police statement said.

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The intelligence agency purchased the technology during Michel Temer’s 2016-2018 presidency for 5.7 million reais ($1.1 million), Globo said in March.

The Globo television network reported Friday that ABIN personnel employed the tacking software more than 30,000 times, of which 1,800 targeted politicians, journalists, lawyers and opponents of Bolsonaro’s government.

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The Federal Police said it was investigating for potential charges of invading someone else’s computer device, criminal organization and interception of communications without judicial authorization or for purposes not authorized by law.



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