On top of organising the FIFA World Cup 2014, the biggest sporting event of the year, Brazil has also been preoccupied with its new Internet Bill of Rights (Marco Civil) (the Bill).
After many years, the Bill was finally signed into law by President Dilma Rousseff on 23 April 2014.
The purpose of the Bill is to protect freedom of expression and information with a view to facilitate an internet ecosystem that is more open, collaborative and democratic.
The Bill was described as "the best possible birthday gift for Brazilian and global web users" by Tim Berners-Lee when celebrating the 25th anniversary of the world wide web.
The Bill gained prominence after the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spying scandal broke out in early June 2013. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden presented evidence that the NSA were spying on President Dilma Rousseff along with many other Brazilian nationals.
As a result, a highly contentious provision was added to a previous draft of the Bill which would have forced global internet companies to store data relating to Brazilian nationals on data servers located inside Brazil. This provision was ultimately omitted from the final draft to ensure safe passage of the Bill into law.
Key provisions of the Bill
Global internet companies must adhere to the laws and courts of Brazil in cases where personal data of Brazilians are involved irrespective of whether such data is stored on servers abroad.
Internet service providers (ISPs) must treat all data on the internet equally. They must not discriminate or charge differentially due to factors such as user, content, site, application or modes of communication.
ISPs will not be liable for any offensive content posted by internet users unless a court order specifically requires the removal of the offensive content.
Data collection and retention
The gathering and use of personal data on internet users in Brazil is limited.
For example, ISPs must have appropriate measures in place to ensure that an email can only be read by the sender and receiver. There is also a five year mandatory data retention period (one year for ISPs providing connectivity services).
The provision on applicable law replaces the draconian obligation to store all data relating to Brazilian nationals in servers located in Brazil. This is good news for global internet companies as the previous obligation would have driven up costs and created various other barriers.
The principle of net neutrality was strongly opposed by various telecom companies as it prevents them from charging higher rates for access to content such as video or voice streaming services such as Skype.
Nevertheless, activists of the Bill argue that this provision provides for a much more open internet market.
Finally, the provision on intermediary liability is a welcome addition as it strengthens the freedom of expression on the web and avoids 'private censorship' from taking place.
It provides for much needed clarification as laws in Brazil vary around whether it should be the companies or users that are penalised over offensive posts.
This article was written by Vanessa Barnett.
For more information please contact Vanessa on +44 (0)20 7427 1070 or email@example.com.