By Ken Winterbottom – Edited by Husam El-Qoulaq
The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies passed a bill last week enshrining citizens’ rights to privacy and freedom of expression online. The groundbreaking bill, known as the Marco Civil da Internet, has been called an “Internet Bill of Rights.” The Brazilian Senate will vote on the proposed legislation this month, according to Index on Censorship.
The bill as passed represents a victory for tech juggernauts Google and Facebook, who successfully lobbied for dropping the provision that would have required them to store data collected from Brazilian citizens on servers within Brazilian territory. President Dilma Rousseff, who had been committed to the local storage requirement in the wake of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks, dropped the provision to secure passage of the rest of the bill, Bloomberg reports. Foreign companies storing and managing data on Brazilian citizens are still required to “respect Brazilian law,” but commentators have noted that this provision may be unenforceable in practice for jurisdictional reasons.
The survival of a similarly controversial provision on net neutrality, however, is lauded as a victory for Internet activists. Chapter III, §1 of the Marco Civil da Internet requires service providers “to treat any data package with isonomy, regardless of content, origin and destination, service, terminal or application.” If this law is enacted, Brazil would become the largest country to have codified such a provision, following the lead of the Netherlands, Chile, and Slovenia.
Also significant is the bill’s provision on intermediary liability, which ensures that “provider[s] of Internet connection will not be civilly liable for damages arising from content generated by third parties.” Service providers may be required by court order to remove content deemed to be offensive, however, and can be penalized for refusal to comply.
Internet activists have expressed concern about the proposed law’s mandatory data retention provision, which requires Internet service providers to store data for at least a year, though this data can only be accessed by court order. InfoJustice summarizes this and other important provisions of the legislation. ArsTechnica and ZDNet provide further discussion.
The international reception of the Marco Civil da Internet has generally been favorable: Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, the man credited with the invention of the World Wide Web, has praised the bill for “balancing the rights and duties of individuals, governments and corporations, while ensuring the Internet continues to be an open and decentralized network,” Reuters reports. Anne Jellema, Chief Executive Officer of the Web Foundation, said: “We congratulate Brazil’s leaders for their courage and vision.”