US set to boycott Brazil's anti-surveillance plans

Government-sanctioned surveillance will be a key theme at Internet governance event this month but the US will avoid "excessive deliberation" on the topic
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

A document released by WikiLeaks this week revealed that spying activities carried out by the United States will be condemned at Brazil's upcoming global Internet governance event - but the proposals to change the current set-up will face strong opposition from the United States. 

The draft agreement for the NETmundial consists of 180 contributions from a multi-stakeholder committee and was due to be publicly released on April 14. The document outlines the key discussion themes - essentially the redefinition of the concept of Internet governance and principles such as rights to access information, freedom of association and expression, privacy, accessibility, diversity and development.

NETmundial is a multistakeholder event created after the NSA spying scandal, which involved various nations including Brazil - and the impact that government-led surveillance is having on the privacy of Internet users and the infrastructure of the Web will be at the top of the agenda at the conference.

"Mass and arbitrary surveillance undermines trust in the Internet and trust in the Internet Governance ecosystem," says the NETmundial agreement.  "[Human] rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in accordance with international human rights law,” the document adds. 

Representatives from Brazil, France, Ghana, Germany, India, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey and the US have all agreed to participate of NETmundial. But WikiLeaks implied that this seemingly collaborative process was in fact a situation where the US “appears to have comprehensively thwarted Germany [and] Brazil in [the] internet governance plan, leaving only platitudes.”

Indeed, the US Government's Submission to NETmundial on Internet governance completely omitted the words "privacy" and surveillance" and added that "it is wise to avoid excessive deliberation on issues known to divide participants beyond a distance that can reasonably be bridged in two days." The US also said that it will discourage any debate around the reach or limitations of state sovereignty in Internet policy.

The clear US stance on the matter of Internet governance meant that the previous anti-surveillance intentions of Brazil and Germany were “gutted to just one paragraph,” according to a tweet from WikiLeaks on Tuesday (8) regarding the NETmundial agreement.

According to the leaked document, however, “there should be meaningful participation by all interested parties in Internet governance discussions and decision-making.” 

Last month, Brazil made progress with its own set of Internet governance rules, which are currently being analyzed by the Senate and are seen as a possible reference for such regulations worldwide. 

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