US National Security Agency

Brazil's plan for local internet data storage hits opposition

Biggest political party, an ally of President Rousseff, opposes measure to counter US spying

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 November, 2013, 9:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 3:45am

A government plan to shield Brazil from alleged US spying by forcing global internet companies to store data on Brazilian users inside the country has run into mounting opposition in Congress, politicians said.

The legislation was proposed by President Dilma Rousseff following revelations that the US National Security Agency conducted surveillance on her e-mails 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.

The requirement for in-country data storage is opposed by companies such as Google and Facebook, which contend that it would increase their costs and erect unnecessary barriers in what is supposed to be a frontier-free world wide web.

If passed, the new law could impact the way Google, Facebook, Twitter and other internet companies 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 centres to be here in Brazil," a spokesman for Molon said on Monday. 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 centres, according to its leader in the lower chamber of Congress, Eduardo Cunha.

Cunha initially favoured Rousseff's proposal requiring localised storage of data on Brazilian internet users, but said he would follow the party line on the issue.

Angered by the revelations of US espionage, Rousseff cancelled a state visit to Washington and denounced massive electronic surveillance of the internet in a speech to the United Nations.