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“This is a policy that is so important it has been personally approved by the board of directors,” Maria das Graças Foster, Petrobras president, told a public forum in Rio de Janeiro of the investment in security. “The management of our goods, people, information and the wealth we create is of crucial importance.”
The fallout could have commercial consequences, with communications minister Paulo Bernardo saying Brazil could require telecommunications companies to use only locally made equipment, a move that would hit foreign suppliers and add to the costs of the industry.
The government is also pushing an internet bill through Congress that would seek to force companies such as Google and Facebook to keep data concerning Brazilians in servers sitting physically within the country.
Having the information physically located in Brazil would mean the companies would have to adhere to Brazilian privacy law regarding information affecting its citizens.
In her comments, Ms Graças Foster said Petrobras was investing R$3.9bn in security this year alone with 3000 employees engaged in the area.
Strict security procedures included requiring scientists and functionaries to avoid transferring the most critical data, such as seismic studies of the company’s oil reserves, through the internet.
The company’s data centre for storage of crucial information was also physically protected by a system of biometric checks, such as thumb readers.
Few business leaders had expected much in terms of concrete dealmaking from Ms Rousseff’s planned state visit to Washington next month.
But the visit was meant to have capped off a slow improvement in relations between the two hemispheric giants since Ms Rousseff took office in January 2011.
Boeing of the US is seen as one of the frontrunners for a planned Brazilian fighter jet contract and US oil majors are believed to be interested in the Latin American country’s proposed forthcoming auctions of fields in giant offshore oil discoveries.
Brazilian companies, meanwhile, hope to strengthen their foothold in the US, with local aircraft maker Embraer looking for defence contracts.
João Augusto de Castro Neves of Eurasia Group said there was little room for positive overtures between Brazil and the US.
But he said Brazil could little afford a trade war with the US as it battles with high inflation and other economic problems.
There is also rising concern in Brazil that it is being locked out of the world trade system with the US, Europe and other South American countries negotiating their own trade agreements.
Some of Brazil’s more extreme proposals, such as forcing the use of locally produced telecoms equipment or the local storage of data, would also be formidably difficult to implement.
“I don’t see Brazil following through on some of the threats, especially towards internet companies,” he said.
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