Brazil passes legislation designed to protect web users ahead of global confernence on the future of Internet governance in the country
The Brazilian senate has approved a bill that will protect Internet users in the country’s right to privacy and freedom of expression, as well as the principles of net neutrality, following the revelations of US state-sponsored mass surveillance programmes in documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
The legislation is being dubbed as Brazil’s ‘Internet Constitution’ and will be signed into law by President Dilma Rousseff (pictured below), who was apparently a target of US espionage, and presented at NetMundial, a conference being held in the country to debate the future of Internet governance.
Brazil Internet Constitution
However in order to be passed, the bill falls short of demanding that Internet companies store data collected on Brazilian users on servers located within the country, following claims that this would increase costs and hinder the free flow of information. Instead, companies will be subject to Brazilian laws in court cases involving Brazilian citizens, even if the data is held abroad.
The bill protects freedoms of expression and information, with websites not responsible for content published by users so long as they comply with government takedown requests, while the
new law will limit the gathering and use of metadata on Brazilian web users.
The government did not back down on a clause guaranteeing net neutrality despite opposition from telecoms operators who wanted to be able to charge additional fees for bandwidth-intensive services such as Skype or Internet streaming.
According to Reuters, the bill is being hailed by Internet experts for balancing the interests of users, governments and businesses without damaging the open principles of the Internet.
Snowden’s revelations led to a souring in relations between Brazil and the US and have prompted the hosting of the NetMundial, which will be attended by around 850 government officials, academics and technology experts with the aim of discussing specific issues and agreeing on shared principles.
A draft proposal has been created in order to stimulate debate, but the final text will not be binding. Some nations want further discussions to be held at the UN, while others, including the US, Australia and some European countries would prefer for governance to be deliberated away from government-dominated institutions.
However despite the ongoing talks, privacy groups have told the BBC that they are concerned that the conference will not address the issue of mass surveillance programmes, which have sparked the debate.
European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes recently told the CeBIT conference in Hannover that the Snowden leaks had pit technology against democracy and outlined her plans for greater data protection legislation in Europe.
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