On 24 March the Brazilian House of Congress passed a sweeping new aimed at enshrining net neutrality, and protecting the online privacy and freedom of expression of Brazil’s 100 million internet users.
The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who last month on the 25th anniversary of the WWW called for an ‘online Magna Carta’ – an internet bill of rights, praised the new legislation, calling it ‘the best possible birthday gift for Brazilian and global web users.’
The move follows widespread outrage in Brazil at Edward Snowden’s revelations that the NSA spied on internal government communications, on the state oil company, and even intercepted data from President Dilma Rousseff’s own office.
The new bill requires network providers to treat all internet traffic equally, prevents ISPs from snooping on users’ data, and requires a court order before any contentious content can be removed from online. One aspect of the bill that is causing controversy is article 11, which makes any internet service with Brazilian customers subject to Brazil’s new laws, even if the service is not based in Brazil, and may be subject domestic data disclosure laws that conflict with those of Brazil.
If a foreign company does not comply with Brazil’s laws then it can be fined 10 percent of its Brazilian revenues, or even be blocked. This clause is likely to problems, but without it the new legislation would lack any effective teeth, and Brazil’s secretary for IT policy, Virgílio Almeida, defended it, saying ‘it should make business easier, by making the rules clearer.’
Almeida also noted that opponents of the clause (mostly large international internet companies who fear the internet breaking up into a patchwork of local legislation) should be glad that the original, much more radical plan to insist that Brazilian’s data could only be stored on databases located in Brazil, had been dropped in the face of concerted international lobbying.
The bill still needs to be ratified by Brazil’s Senate, but as this is dominated by the President’s Workers Party, delays are not expected. The EU, who backed down from passing similar laws last year following intense pressure from the US, is expected to be following developments with a keen interest.