"Internet Constitution" becomes priority for Brazilian government

Voting of a draft bill aimed at ensuring civil rights online now tops president Rousseff's agenda after NSA spying
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

As allegations of NSA monitoring of Brazil's telecoms network emerged, the voting of a draft bill that is considered an "internet constituition" is now a top priority for president Dilma Rousseff. 

The bill, named Marco Civil da Internet, aims at establishing rights and duties of Brazilian individuals, government and businesses regarding internet use and was put forward in 2009. Voting of the proposal is likely to be fast-tracked after the US spying revelations from earlier this week.

"It is very important that we can get a prompt response from the Congress [about the draft bill]. The violation to the sovereignty and privacy of Brazilian citizens is unacceptable," Ideli Salvatti, institutional relations minister told the press yesterday (Monday 8 July).

The Marco Civil da Internet is based on the principles of freedom of expression online, protection of privacy and personal user data on the web, as well as network neutrality. It establishes who the players are in the web and what responsibilities each of the online environment.

After its introduction to the Congress in 2009, voting of the proposal has been rescheduled several times in the following years. A proper committee to debate the draft bill was only set up in 2012 and received input of various experts and the society as a whole.

However, one of the major sticking points of the proposal and the apparent reason why voting of the bill has taken so long is the neutrality issue. The Marco Civil da Internet would crack down on current practices of Brazilian internet providers, such as restricting connection speeds for different types of content accessed by users - music and video downloads being a classic example.

The proposal outlines that providers would have to treat data traffic in the same way, regardless of variables such as service, application or device used to access the web. It would also prevent companies from analyzing monitoring, filtering or checking the content of data packages.

Concerted lobbying from the telecommunications companies meant that the original text of the bill was continuously amended and voting adjourned in several occasions. 

In practical terms, the Marco Civil da Internet would stop telcos from making money out of browsing patterns. But if it becomes clear that providers are involved in any way with the recent accusations of illegal data monitoring, these companies may not be able to continue to get away with it.

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