Brazil approves radical anti-spying internet bill

Brazilian lower congress

Originally published by Planet Ivy on 27 March 2014.

The passing of this internet governance legislation by Brazil could be an historic moment for the future of the web

On Tuesday night, a sweeping majority of Brazil’s lower chamber of congress voted in favour of a so-called “Internet constitution,” which will enshrine net-neutrality and is intended to protect its citizens’ online privacy. The Marco Civil da Internet still needs to be cleared by the Senate before becoming law, but the result nevertheless marks a rare and significant boon for pro-privacy activists the world over, who are still reeling from Edward Snowden’s infamous NSA revelations.

The Bill includes provisions to ensure freedom of expression on the internet, with users’ communications only allowed to be disclosed at the behest of a court order. Telecoms companies would no longer to be able to charge different prices for certain types of content and limits would also be set on what sorts of data could be gathered on users.

The government was forced to drop a controversial provision of the Bill which would have ensured that data gathered about Brazilian citizens would remain on servers within Brazil, under pressure from large companies such as Google and Yahoo who claimed the costs would be prohibitive. Instead, data stored about Brazilians would be subject to Brazilian law, regardless of what country it was stored in. Of course, how exactly this could be enforced by the Brazilian government remains to be seen.

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Since Snowden’s NSA leaks, Brazil has been one of the staunchest critics of the US’s pernicious spying programmes, especially after it emerged Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s personal calls and emails had been monitored. Rousseff told the UN General Assembly last September that the spying was an “unacceptable” violation of human rights, adding: “Meddling in such a manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and as such it is an affront to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries.”

Rousseff, along with German chancellor, Angela Merkel was instrumental in the draft UN resolution brought to the General Assembly at the end of last year, which sought to put an end to the intrusive electronic espionage epitomised by the NSA scandal, and enshrine the right to privacy online.

The Marco Civil da Internet was supported by a petition on global civic activism site, Avaaz, which had garnered over 340,000 signatures at the time of writing. It is hoped the Bill may be brought into law ahead of a global conference on Internet governance being hosted in Brazil next month.

José Nantala, a Brazilian internet law specialist told Reuters: “The law is balanced because it protects internet access and privacy at the same time. But it doesn’t resolve the problem of jurisdiction in international cases.”

It is still unclear whether other countries will follow Brazil’s example, but they are certainly making steps in the right direction in terms of protecting their citizens’ rights online.

 

Featured image: Wikipedia, inset image: Roberto Stuckert via Flickr

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