Electronic leviathan

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The concept of Electronic Leviathan was developed on the basis of research into a product of electronic government, ICP-Brasil or, the Brazilian Public Key Infrastructure (Infra-estrutura de Chaves Públicas Brasileira), conducted by Marcello Barra. Most of the data used came from interviews with those involved in ICP-Brasil’s development, including politicians from the Executive Branch, technical experts in the bureaucracy, members of the banking and business communities, representatives from lawyers’ associations (the OAB – the Brazilian Bar Association) and academia, as well as representatives of the information technology industry. ICP-Brasil files and regulations were also used, along with presidential speeches, and e-government legislation. See also BARRA, 2009 in EDUSC.

How can you prove that you are yourself in the internet? How can the authenticity of a document sent via internet be proved? ICP-Brasil - the Brazilian Public Keys Infrastructure (ICP) was developed to answer these two questions, by providing a form of identification and authentication in the internet. ICP-Brasil was created by Brazilian State as a mechanism that allows for the so-called “digital signature”, with validity recognized by this State. Technically, ICP-Brasil is a set of legal norms based on specific technoscientific knowledge.

The electronic Leviathan

It is a theoretical and interpretative construct to understand ICP-Brasil’s process. First, the developers of ICP-Brasil sought to guarantee the conditions needed to ensure the existence of the State itself, a concern which had eventually led to an increase in centralized power. Those developers' next priority was to diminish insecurity on the internet: by enhancing security when using software connected to the net; by combating what was perceived as a possibility of monopoly formation or anarchy in the digital certification market; and by somehow controlling the use of the internet as a doorway to the sort of anarchy that prevails in the world of international relations. This was a State that guaranteed security. At the same time, it tried to settle: the dispute between financial institutions and the Certisign company (since the banking community was worried about the possibility of a market monopoly); the possible dispute among banks over the digital certification market; and the struggles among bureaucratic structures. This was a State that ensured peace.

Several elements in the ICP-Brasil case involve the State and tie in to the electronic Leviathan in various ways. These elements are: a. the “reason of State”, including concerns regarding the State’s security and guarantees to ensure its continuing existence; b. the control of society by the State; c. the political decision-making structure, starting with the Head of State; d. a domination strategy emanating from the bureaucracy; e. the power of the police; f. the treatment of asymmetric cryptography, a dual-use technology controlled by States; g. the consideration given to international practices as evidenced by the comparative examination of other States’ laws and uses of that technology; h. the issue of national security, linked to foreign relations and the geopolitical configuration of States, leading to an in-depth analysis of what and how was being done in other countries; i. updating the way war is waged –“cyber war”; j. containment of problems relating to sovereignty and territory.


BARRA, Marcello C. (2009).O Leviatã Eletrônico: a trama política que colocou o estado na internet. Bauru, EDUSC.

SOBRAL, Fernanda A. de F. & BARRA, Marcello C. (2008).Academia vis-à-vis the Electronic Leviathan, in [1]