Brazil’s Senate has just unanimously approved legislation that lays down new guidelines for freedom of expression, net neutrality and data privacy for the country’s 200 million citizens. Named the ‘Marco Civil da Internet’, the bill guarantees equal access to the internet and protects the privacy of Brazilian users in the wake of US spying revelations. The country’s president, Dima Rousseff, signed the bill on 23 April.
Importantly, the bill says companies such as Google and Facebook will be subject to Brazil’s laws and courts in cases involving information on Brazilians, even if the data is stored on servers abroad. Also highly commendable is the fact the government did not cave in the face of strong lobbying from telecom companies, and refused to drop a net neutrality provision that bars those companies from charging higher rates for access to content that uses more bandwidth, such as video streaming and voice services like Skype.
One facet of the bill that has been questioned as not going far enough, however, is the provision that internet service providers must retain user data for a minimum of six months. This was added at the request of law enforcement agencies, who may seek internet activity records as part of an investigation. Under the bill, such information will not be accessible without a court order.
How this legislation is applied in Brazil will be something to watch, and the bill comes at an interesting time for internet rights and control; the US announced it will relinquish control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently, possibly because their control over ICANN had become diplomatically untenable in light of revelations on the various spying incidents carried out by the NSA. This globalisation of control of ICANN will certainly change the shape of the internet and who controls it.
It remains to be seen what the international response to Brazil’s new ‘internet bill of rights’ will be – will it be upheld as a model of good legislation, or laughed at as forgoing a potential area for control of its citizens?