Brazil demands rules on data flows from WTO

The country wants the multilateral global trade body to start a debate on regulation and governance.

Brazil is pushing for the establishment of rules around Internet data flows and has presented a document on the subject to the World Trade Organization (WTO) last week to stress the urgency of starting a more objective debate.

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This is a follow-up on the discussions about e-commerce rules seen at the latest WTO ministerial conference held in Argentina in December, where some 80 countries have expressed some willingness to start negotiations around the theme, one of the most sensitive topics being being around online data governance.

In the document present to the WTO last week, Brazil attempts to create a sense of urgency around the debate - this includes the situations and conditions under which regulators can restrict data flows, in aspects not only limited to user privacy, but also cybersecurity and spread of false information online.

The country is also pushing for rules around the responsibility of online platforms around the data they handle, as well as the definition of ownership for information generated across jurisdictions. This would in theory enable the creation of rules around data flows from one country to another.

The demands from Brazil for the WTO to take on the negotiation of new Internet-related issues come as the debate continues around the alleged misuse of personal data of more than 71 million people by Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and other companies.

However, the inability of the WTO to address the issues related to data and e-commerce has been challenged for some time - this is especially relevant now with the rise of other smaller regional trade agreements such as Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which do cover digital trade rules.

Such expansion of the WTO remit would require a total redefinition of the standards and procedures for negotiations that are currently in place - and whether the body is able or willing to overhaul its own structures in order to keep up with the current digital trade debate is yet to be seen.

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