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Summary:

The Marco Civil da Internet, in its current form, is a big win for the likes of Google and Facebook, as it no longer requires them to store Brazilians’ personal data within the country’s borders.

The lower house of Brazil’s Congress has approved the country’s first bill of online rights, the Marco Civil da Internet. If passed by the Senate and signed off by the president, the bill would entrench net neutrality in Brazilian law and limit the liability of web platforms if users upload certain types of unlawful content.

However, while the bill would force international web firms to adhere to Brazilian privacy law in legal disputes regarding local citizens, it would not require companies such as Google and Facebook to store data on Brazilians within Brazil’s borders.

The country’s government emitted the greatest outrage in the wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA surveillance revelations, with President Dilma Rousseff calling for measures to keep Brazilian data within the country where possible. Part of that plan involved mandating local storage, but that proved to be a major sticking point and Rousseff backed off a week ago in order to aid the wider bill’s passage.

Net neutrality is of course also a potential blocker, though clearly not enough to stop the Chamber of Deputies passing the Marco Civil. As in Europe and the U.S., telecoms firms want to be able to favor certain internet services over others to their commercial advantage.

If the bill clears the Senate, Brazil would be one of only a few countries around the world to ensure that this can’t happen (the others include the Netherlands, Slovenia and Chile).

The bill has actually been in the works for almost 5 years, though the Snowden revelations brought a new urgency to matters.

The Marco Civil originally would have forced telcos to store customer metadata – so central to the Snowden revelations in the U.S. — for 5 years, but the version passed by the lower house of Congress reduces that to just one year. It will also reduce the liability of online platform providers when it comes to the uploading of third-party content, but not when it comes to copyrighted content, as a separate law covering copyright is also on the horizon.

As InfoJustice notes, there is a chance that the Marco Civil will become law even before Brazil holds its extraordinary NETmundial conference in late April, one of several initiatives to sort out internet governance at a global level. And given Brazil’s size and importance, many may see the law as a model for wider consideration.

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