As Brazil’s Internet Bill of Rights Nears Reality, Service Providers Could Face New Rules

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Brazil could soon pass its Internet bill of rights, known as Marco Civil da Internet, which has provisions to enforce net neutrality, protect users’ freedom of expression, and provide privacy to Brazilian citizens – no matter where the service provider is located.

Late last month, Marco Civil was approved by Brazil’s lower house of congress. It is expected to be approved by Brazil’s upper house later this month, and be written into law by President Dilma Rousseff in time for the NETmundial internet governance conference that begins April 23 in São Paulo.

After Edward Snowden leaked documents that showed the massive extent of US and global surveillance, President Rousseff has emerged as a vocal critic of foreign espionage on citizens, especially the 100 million internet users in her country.

Previous drafts of the Marco Civil required companies that collect data on Brazilian citizens to  store that data on servers in Brazil. However, tech giants including Google and Facebook successfully lobbied legislators to make amendments that wouldn’t require them and others to build data centers in Brazil to continue to provide services to Brazilians.

Service providers, however, must respect Brazilian law around freedom of speech and privacy, although it may be difficult or impossible to enforce this for jurisdictional reasons. Lawyer and academic Ronaldo Lemos told the Economist, that renegotiating Brazil’s mutual legal-assistance treaties might be a better way to cooperatively enforce laws across different jurisdictions.

As it stands, Brazil plans to penalize rulebreakers with fines of up to 10 percent of the firm’s Brazilian revenues, or by blocking their services altogether.

The Marco Civil obliges internet application providers to act in an organized, professional manner, and to keep records of application access logs in a safe place for six months (and a minimum of one year for internet connection providers). These records can be accessed by authorities only through specific court orders, however, as many have noted, any internet service, in effect, could be affected by Brazilian law as long as it has Brazilian users.

Martyn Perks argues in the online magazine spiked that the bill is more about Brazil establishing its independence from US networks and US influence. Given Brazil’s plans to build a fiber-optic connection to Europe that would bypass the US where most Central and South America traffic passes through, the Marco Civil represents an effort towards greater state control over Brazil’s internet.

Many anticipate Marco Civil to pass through the Brazilian Senate this month, and its repercussions could be felt around the world

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