Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Global Impact: NSA Spying on Heretofore Trusted Allies Backfires, Damage May be Irreparable

According to Reuters, Brazil's lower chamber of Congress approved groundbreaking legislation on Tuesday (March 25) aimed at guaranteeing equal access to the Internet and protecting the privacy of its users in the wake of NSA spying revelations.

To ensure passage of the bill, the government had to drop a contentious provision that would have forced global Internet companies to store data on Brazilian servers inside the country.

The rule was added last year to proposed Internet governance legislation after revelations that the US National Security Agency had spied on the personal communications of Brazilians, including those of President Dilma Rousseff, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The proposed bill says companies such as Google and Facebook are subject to Brazilian laws and courts in cases involving information on Brazilians, even if the data is stored on servers abroad.

The government refused to drop another key provision on net neutrality that was opposed by telecom companies because it bars them from charging higher prices for different content, such as video streaming and voice services such as Skype.

The legislation dubbed Brazil's "Internet Constitution" protects freedom of expression and sets limits to the gathering and use of metadata about Internet users.

Experts, such as WWW inventor Tim Berners-Lee, have praised the bill for balancing the rights and duties of individuals, governments and corporations, while ensuring the Internet continues to be an open and decentralized network.

COMMENT: Following the spying revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, including allegations that the NSA secretly collected data stored on servers by Internet companies such as Google and Yahoo, Brazil sought to force them to store data on Brazilian servers in the country.

Foreign telecoms with offices in Brazil have been fined for not complying with Brazilian laws, yet it is not clear how companies based elsewhere can be made to comply, for instance, with court orders to remove disputed content from the Internet.

The revelations of NSA espionage using powerful surveillance programs upset relations between Washington and Brasílía led President Rousseff to cancel a state visit to Washington in October 2013 and denounce massive electronic surveillance of the Internet by the US in a speech to the UN General Assembly.

Both Rousseff and Merkel have led international efforts to limit mass electronic surveillance. Brazil will host a global conference on the future of Internet governance next month, which our readers will be updated on.

Seemingly, it is clear that both Rousseff and Merkel are angry over friendly, loyal nations having their trust violated by the United States and are taking collective action to counter Washington's engaging in economic espionage when it said its only interest was counter-terrorism.

Thank you, President Obama.

It may well be many years before another US President regains the trust of the international community. How tragic and...avoidable.