By Anthony Boadle and Esteban Israel
BRASILIA/SAO PAULO Nov 4 A government plan to
shield Brazil from alleged U.S. spying by forcing global
Internet companies to store data on Brazilian users inside the
country has run into mounting opposition in Congress,
politicians said on Monday.
The legislation was proposed by President Dilma Rousseff
following revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency
conducted surveillance on her emails and phone calls, along with
those of average Brazilian citizens.
Brazil's largest political party, which is a Rousseff ally,
is not supporting the requirement, which has Internet companies
up in arms. Not even the bill's author is convinced.
The measure was added to a bill drafted in 2011 aimed at
protecting the civil rights and privacy of Internet users in
Brazil that could be put to vote in the lower chamber of
Congress as early as this week.
A Justice Ministry official said the government was anxious
to see the final text to be debated in Congress on Tuesday.
The requirement for in-country data storage is opposed by
companies such as Google and Facebook, who
contend that it would increase their costs and erect unnecessary
barriers in what is supposed to be a frontier-free World Wide
If passed, the new law could impact the way Google,
Facebook, Twitter and other Internet giants operate in Latin
America's biggest country and one of the largest
telecommunications markets in the world.
Despite the criticism of international business lobbies,
Rousseff is pressing lawmakers to vote as soon as possible on
the bill, which was dubbed Brazil's "Internet Constitution."
The bill's author, congressman Alessandro Molon of
Rousseff's ruling Workers Party, opposes the requirement.
"There is a lot of pressure from the government for the data
centers to be here in Brazil," a spokesman for Molon told
Reuters. He said Molon was still trying to negotiate the
exclusion of the controversial proposal from the bill.
Brazil's largest political party, the PMDB, also opposes the
requirement of in-country data centers, according to its leader
in the lower chamber of Congress, Eduardo Cunha.
Cunha initially favored Rousseff's proposal requiring
localized storage of data on Brazilian Internet users, but told
Reuters he would follow the party line on the issue.
Cunha has been a critic of another requirement in the bill -
net neutrality - which is opposed by telecom companies
operating in Brazil because it would bar them from introducing
differential pricing according to Internet usage and download
Rousseff's government has insisted that net neutrality,
which ensures service providers and regulators cannot restrict
users' access to Internet content, must remain at the heart of
However, following the U.S. spying revelations based on
documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden,
requiring Internet companies to store their data on Brazilians
who are inside the country has become a priority for Rousseff.
Angered by the revelations of U.S. espionage, Rousseff
canceled a state visit to Washington and denounced massive
electronic surveillance of the Internet in a speech to the U.N.
"The spying revelations created demands on the government to
quickly come up with a law that guarantees the privacy of
Internet users," Marivaldo Pereira, the Justice Ministry's
legislative affairs secretary, said in an interview.
Net neutrality was fundamental to guarantee freedom of
expression on the Internet, said Pereira, who stressed that
personal data on Brazilian users must be stored locally so it is
subject to Brazils laws.
Global Internet companies, he added, should not be able to
refuse to provide information as they have done in court cases
arguing that it is stored in the United States.
The mounting opposition in Congress to Rousseff's insistence
on in-country data centers could become a bargaining chip to
persuade her government to drop its defense of net neutrality.
According to Ronaldo Lemos, a Rio de Janeiro State
University professor who helped craft the original bill, telecom
companies have become more vocal in their opposition to net
neutrality and want it watered down or removed altogether.
If that happens, what was once considered a model law for
the Internet could end up becoming a model for what is wrong
with the Internet, Lemos said.
"We could end up with a law that gives up on net neutrality
and forces companies to have data centers in Brazil," he said.
"This would be worse than espionage. We would be giving a
business sector, the telecommunications companies, the power to
decide the future of the Internet in Brazil," Lemos said.