Compliance Management, Privacy

Brazilian president signs internet ‘Bill of Rights’ into law

While attending a conference on the future of internet governance, Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, signed legislation into effect that pioneers an internet “Bill of Rights” for the country.

The bill, called “Marco Civil,” was enacted on Wednesday at the NetMundial conference in Sao Paulo, just a day after Brazil's Senate approved the measure. According to the Associated Press, a major provision of the law limits the online data collection practices of firms taking up Brazilians' information, including major players like Google and Facebook.

Of note, the legislation instructs service providers to make sure that email can only be read by senders and their intended recipients – a measure that, if violated, could result in fines and other penalties levied by the country, the AP reported.

With its enactment, the law invokes net neutrality, data privacy and freedom of expression protections for online users.

Support of the legislation picked up steam after Snowden leaks revealed last September that President Rousseff was the target of National Security Agency (NSA) spying. At the time, Rousseff condemned the actions before international leaders at a U.N. General Assembly.

On Wednesday, Ed McNicholas, a co-leader of Sidley Austin's privacy, data security, and information law practice, told that the legislation would be “helpful” as guidance for major U.S. firms, but hold less impact from a legal perspective here.

“Most large multinational companies already have robust privacy programs and functions in place,” McNicholas said. “In the sense that this adds a specific requirement to those programs, it will be helpful, but not particularly, impactful.

“With respect to the NSA, and the concerns that Mr. Snowden raised, this will have very little, if any, impact. The United States, like every other country has an intelligence service, and each service will protect their national interest regardless of this bill,” he said.

Steven Watt, a senior staff attorney for the human rights program at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said in an interview that the bill was a step forward, though no answer to the glaring issue of unfettered government surveillance.

“Obviously, it's not going to stop NSA spying, but it's going to put pressure on [companies] to comply with laws in other countries, and that's a good thing,” Watt said.

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