New Internet bill in Brazil could present both privacy protections and risks for users

  • By Guest
  • October 7, 2013

By Travis Knoll

A Brazilian bill seeking to regulate Internet use is still under debate and Congress is set to vote on it by the end of October, according to Estado de São Paulo.

One of the main objectives of the law is to limit the amount of time that companies can keep personal user data to one year, but in response to Edward Snowden’s revelations during the summer about the U.S. National Security Agency’s international surveillance program, the law also proposes to bring international Internet companies in line with national regulations. At the behest of President Dilma Rousseff, the authors of the bill added cyber-security measures that would require that the Internet data of Brazilian users be processed and held in Brazil instead of the United States.

These new additions to the law come on the heels of revelations by British newspaper The Guardian, which showed that the NSA spied on both Rousseff and the nation’s largest energy company, PETROBRAS. These revelations caused the Brazilian head of state to cancel a state visit to the United States last month. Rousseff was the only head of state scheduled to visit the White House this year.

As a result of the allegations of eavesdropping, Rousseff has personally pushed for the implementation of the law. During a speech at the UN General Assembly in late September, the president called for multinational regulations of data storage and disclosure to prevent spying between individual states.

The bill also has the support of freedom of expression advocates, such as the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) and Article 19, and Brazilian media groups like the National Association for Newspapers (ANJ), which have lauded the law as the first Internet neutrality initiative in Latin America. The law would ensure that personal data could only be accessed with judicial approval and only in the context of criminal investigations.

“Everyone should be able to surf the internet on a level playing field,” said ANJ Executive Director Ricardo Pereira in 2012.

However, the bill is not without controversy. Some media analysts worry that Rousseff’s proposals could make it easier for other governments to monitor their citizens’ Internet activity.  Even supporters of the law, such as Article 19 – an advocacy group pushing for greater liberty of expression and a more accessible internet – question whether the requirement that data be stored in Brazil will actually counteract U.S. surveillance activities.

Supporters of the bill have emphasized its urgency and sharply criticized recent delays to vote on it.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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