Science, Tech & Environment

Brazil's new Internet 'Bill of Rights' aims to protect the country's privacy

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Wednesday signed a new Internet "Bill of Rights'' for her country aimed at protecting the Internet and the online privacy of Brazilians.

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Carolina Rossini, who follows Internet and technology issues at the New America Foundation, campaigned for the bill — and celebrated its passage. "Brazil recognizes now, for once, net neutrality, which is still a bit of a fight in the US," she said.

The new law promotes privacy by limiting the data that online companies can collect on Internet users in Brazil. Providers operating in the country must develop protocols to ensure email can be read only by senders and recipients. 

"Brazilian law does say that no company operating in Brazil can share personal data and the content of communications without a judicial order," Rossini said.

Still, the law requires Internet companies to hold onto user data for six months, in case authorities need it. "For example, Google and Facebook will have to hold data for six months," she says.

The new law also sets a high bar for what's known as net neutrality. It bars companies that sell Internet service from charging more to companies that want greater bandwidth.

In the US, net neutrality rules imposed by the Federal Communications Commision were struck down by a court in January. The following month, Netflix struck a deal with Comcast to pay for preferential treatment of Internet traffic carrying its film streams.

"We know that during some high peaks in Internet use in the US, Netflix can occupy up to 80 percent of the bandwidth," Rossini said. "If you have somebody else needing to occupy a certain band[width], small producers or small enterprises ... they will not reach the final user."