New Brazilian Law Strips Citizen’s Rights
Marco Civil da Internet: Don’t Believe the Hype
In 2012 a general director of Google was arrested in Brazil. Since then, this big corporation has invested millions of dollars in lobbying the Brazilian congress, political, academic institutions (like FGV, the Getúlio Vargas Foundation) and activist collectives influence the political process and laws for their benefit. Approved in 2014, the “Marco Civil da Internet” (Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the Internet) decrees that web based business can not be held liable for user-generated content when responding promptly to requests from the government involving blocking content and delivering user data identification. This was in fact the only reason that made Facebook, Google, Microsoft, MercadoLibre among others, give so much support (and in some cases, money) for the approval of this law. In Brazil, there are activist groups financed by Google that usually talk about Snowden, Manning and Assange, expecting their hypocrisy will not be unveiled, however simple research as to who is supporting these groups is enough to unmask them.
Recently, it came to surface that a prominent teacher, considered an authority in Internet-related matters, who is also a member of the CGI (a committee for the management of the Internet in Brazil) and the main spokesperson of these activist groups, had received over R$ 300,000 (around US$ 100,000) from a politician for monitoring social networks though his group. This same politician has been condemned for money laundering, vote buying and corruption. It was under these political circumstances that this Law was approved in Brazil, institutionalizing the mass surveillance, data retention of all Brazilians — and burying net neutrality.
THE AWFUL TRUTH OF THE MARCO CIVIL LAW
Foreign politicians and activists often receive firsthand biased information that has been shaped through the lobbying of large corporations and the Brazilian government. Even though these groups present themselves as independent guardians of freedom, they are actually sponsored by Google and by the government, a contradiction that results in dubious projects, like the infamous “Marco Civil da Internet”.
Julian Assange recently said that Brazil and activists in Brazil should found Wikileaks-like initiatives, so those could be installed in our territory. But the path we are following, due to the umbilical link between “these activists”, the government and corporations is leading us the other way – and thanks to the the Marco Civil, initiatives like Wikileaks and projects of real secure communications became illegal.
Articles 13 and 15 of the Marco Civil Law violate the constitutional principles of Proportionality and Presumption of Innocence, affecting the privacy and freedom of expression of citizens.
Under the usual laws, it’s possible to save telephone records of user connections – e.g., for investigations. However, companies can only save the contents of those conversations (popularly known as “wiretapping”) AFTER a court decision allows for it. When it comes to Internet, though, the Marco Civil determines that service providers must retain access connection logs for at least a year, and for at least six months when it comes to applications, establishing a different surveillance standard from those previously adopted in traditional communication systems.
In fact, it means that every citizen is being “wiretapped” on the Internet. It’s as if everyone is under possible investigation, regardless of being charged with a crime or not. So the first thing to consider is: why is everyone treated as a primary suspect in the Marco Civil, even though the Federal Constitution assures us that we are innocent until proven guilty? Aware of the consequences of their actions, people who practice virtual crimes, with some technical knowledge, can easily avoid much of the surveillance using “disguising” systems, leaving to the average user the burden of permanent surveillance. Thus, a large proportion of crimes committed within the network, such as pedophilia, fraud and money laundering, are made by people who know the system and will strive to avoid the routes under surveillance. Besides, such crimes are necessarily based on a material base (money is stolen from someone, a child is exploited by someone, and so on), leaving other paths open for investigation.
A law similar to the Marco Civil was implemented in Germany years ago, after which the authorities concluded that these new mechanisms had not presented the slightest usefulness in solving crimes. For other harmful behaviors, such as moral damages caused by third parties, it is given the same treatment as offensive or defamatory content, determining that content is to be blocked. In these cases, record keeping for all users is not justified, given the lesser gravity of such offenses. Thus, the drastic reduction of privacy cannot be balanced with the very low possibility of assistance in solving crimes. Citizens give up their rights, which are constitutional guarantees, but are not given any real security gains in return. Weighting individual and collective rights, we are left with none. After nearly a decade of activism, including the formation of the Pirate Party, the European Union ruled the Data Retention Directive proposal was from 2006 and in 2014 was declared invalid, which sets a testimony of the social failure of this type of initiative.
Net neutrality is another point being questioned in the Marco Civil. Contrary to the hype made by the lobbyists, network neutrality was actually buried in the article dealing with the subject.
Net neutrality is the principle that says that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, without discriminating or charging differently users, contents, sites, platforms or applications. The Marco Civil Law states the possibility of breaking neutrality only when it is necessary to “ensure better provision of service or for technical reasons” – practices such as Traffic Shaping and Traffic Policing are adopted precisely under the same exceptions.
The Marco Civil also guarantees the violation of Net Neutrality through presidential decrees. It gives the President of Brazil the power to say where and how the network neutrality will exist or not. The “zero-rating”, a clear violation of net neutrality, is already a reality in Brazil and now the President of the Republic negotiates directly with telecoms corporations and figures like Mark Zuckerberg to implement the Internet.org project here.
There could be something positive about the fact that the law requires the President to consult with Anatel (agency responsible for the regulation of communications in Brazil) and CGI before signing any such decree. But Anatel is entirely submissive to telecoms corporations, an heritage of the privatization done in the 90’s. And the CGI has in its composition mainly sectors of these same corporations allied to partners in the government.
To conclude and sum it up, the words of Rick Falkvinge:
“the Marco Civil had gone from being a bill that guaranteed next-generation industries the fertile ground they needed, and for the citizens, the access to public services and freedom of speech, to being a bill that just enabled track-ability and further entrenched obsolete industries against the future and their successors. It was a disaster”.
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF will be held in João Pessoa – Paraíba, Brazil in November 2015. The Brazilian Pirates will be organising an
to run parallel with the event. Invited speakers include:
- JULIA REDA
German, member of the European Parliament for the Pirate Party in Germany and Vice President of the Greens / Europe Free Alliance.
- AMELIA ANDERSDOTTER
Swedish activist, youngest member of the European Parliament in its history from 2011-2014 for the Piratpartiet.
- FABIANE KRAVUTSCHKE
Activist for ecofeminism, transfeminism and for the animal rights. General Secretary of the Pirate Party in Brazil.
- BIRGITTA JÓNSDÓTTIR
Activist, writer, poet and member of the Parliament of Iceland for the Pirate Party in Iceland.
The unconference will be crowdfunded and we will be getting back to you with details of how you can attend and or help.
KaNNoN (Yuri Sanson) is a guest author. he is an audio engineer, freedom of speech activist member of the Pirate Party of Brazil.
He is grateful for the help of Professor Victor Galdino and Ana Freitas
This article has been altered to fix typos which led to some inaccuracies 19 June 2015