A day in the life of Maritza, a 57-year-old cis woman living in Caracas

News & Analysis
Maritza, Venezuela

Written by Derechos Digitales 

03:00: Maritza wakes up and gets ready. It’s still dark. She has to go stand in a queue outside the nearest grocery store, where after several hours her fingerprint will be scanned to retrieve her personal information from a governmental database. This will tell the cashier not only her address, full name and phone number, but also if she already bought her allotted ration of food that month. If so, she will be sent back empty-handed. There are drones flying over the queue that stretches for two blocks in the streets; she doesn’t know for what purpose, but they’re recording everyone’s faces.

10:47: Maritza finally leaves the store. She phones her daughter to tell her she has managed to buy some milk, but the line cuts out. It’s possible that the networks are failing, but it’s also possible that the police are intercepting her calls; without a court warrant, there’s no way of knowing. She goes on her Twitter account and complains about the long queue and the scarcity of food; in a matter of minutes, three different troll accounts start replying to her tweet, accusing her of being a “paid agent” for “foreign actors”. She deletes the tweet quickly; other people have been sent to prison for way less than that.

11:15: Maritza tries to join the long queues at the bank to cash her social security pension, but she’s informed that her Homeland Card (an ID card that is obtained after providing lots of personal information on a long form at the local council) will have to be scanned. She applied for this ID before her neighbour, but was denied because she had signed a petition for a referendum against the government five years ago.

11:59: Maritza arrives at her office, where she works as a secretary. She switches on her computer and logs into her email. She knows that her company’s system doesn’t allow her to browse social networks or entertainment websites, but she’s unaware that all her activity within her company’s network is being recorded, stored and analysed by the IT department.

14:02: Maritza uses her smartphone to make a transaction using her banking app. She checks if she’s received money from her sister, who lives abroad and sends her a monthly money transfer through a black-market service. By using the app, she has authorised her bank to access her location and her phone’s contact list. The bank will share this information with the government, along with all of the information concerning the transaction sender, receiver, amount and purpose.

16:04: Maritza gets called to her boss’ office. He says that he saw comments she left on Facebook profile regarding the political situation of the government. He asks her to stop doing so to avoid getting in trouble.

18:03: Maritza leaves her office. She sees a protest on her way to the subway, and notices that police officers are stopping people on the street and asking to see their phones. She takes a detour around the protest to avoid being stopped, since refusing to show her phone would only end up in her being detained.

19:53: Maritza gets home, says hello to her husband and goes into the shower. While she’s there, he checks her phone for calls and messages. He knows all of her logins, passwords and passcodes. While she feels uncomfortable about this, she knows all of her friends do the same and couldn’t find a way to say no.

22:00: Maritza gets an audio message in one of her WhatsApp groups for community issues. The message has been forwarded from a different group and says things about the economic and political situation in the country. Some of the people in the group start criticising the government, but she avoids doing so because she knows that a friend’s neighbour was arrested because of opinions he shared in a WhatsApp group.