Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Is Brasil Going Too Far On Internet Security?

Brazil going too far on internet security

Rousseff’s web protectionism is bad for her country
Throughout the current controversy over US snooping on foreign powers, much of the focus has been on the damage done to relations between America and Europe. The revelation, in particular, that the US tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone has triggered debate in the EU about whether it needs tough new data protection laws.
But the one country that may influence how this controversy develops more than any other is Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff has expressed fury at the revelations of US spying. Consequently, her government has hit back with an extensive set of measures aimed at protecting Brazilians from what it regards as an out-of-control US surveillance machine.





Brazil has published ambitious plans to promote its own networking technology. It intends to set up its own secure national email service. Now it is unveiling legislation that would require all online information concerning Brazilians to be stored physically in Brazil.
This last measure would have big implications. It would require US internet companies operating in Brazil to duplicate infrastructure that they already possess offshore, setting up huge and costly data centres inside the country. This would inevitably leave those internet companies wondering whether they should restrict their operations in Brazil. That would be bad for Brazilian competitiveness and damaging for its tech sector.
It would also be bad for global internet freedom. The world is divided into those states led by the US, which are champions of a free-flowing internet; and those – such as China, Russia and Iran – that maintain national intranets to help secure political control. Brazil is one of a group of countries – alongside Turkey, India and Indonesia – that have wavered over which path to take. If Brazil, whose population is the world’s second-largest user of Facebook, becomes a standard-bearer of internet protectionism, others will follow.
The US has nobody but itself to blame for the angry Brazilian reaction to snooping by American spies. The president of Brazil is right to feel seriously aggrieved by evidence that the US has been tapping into her internal government communications.
But Brazil’s mission to protect its citizens’ personal data by means of extensive data firewalls is flawed. It is bad for Brazil, which would suffer economically. And it is bad for the worldwide web, which risks entering an era of fragmentation and regulation. Ms Rousseff needs to think again.


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  1. ReportEcoLord | November 13 1:13pm | Permalink
    All this in-country containment will surely increase the cost of internet services (as a consequence of unnecessary replication, plus addition complexity and regulation compliance) with the end result being the consumer pays.
  2. Reportgrumph | November 13 1:05pm | Permalink
    This article is extremely biased.
  3. ReportGood European | November 13 11:55am | Permalink
    The time to talk about global internet freedom is when legislation in all countries, especially this one (UK) and the USA is capable of protecting copyright and IP owners. Until then it remains a dangerous place. A super highway littered with Dick Turpins, busy committing heists and hold ups. The American clandestine services being only a bit player. In the mean time, if they store information digitally or communicate online, everyone is fair game. So, if on the road to policing the internet properly a few spives from Silicone Valley find they can't exercise their divine right to cash in on other people's ideas, then too bad. That's a situation they should be forced to get used to. I don't think Brazil is being especially paranoid, nor over reacting when it comes to protecting national interest, just taking a sensible, measured response to the chaotic free for all and theft fest the internet has degenerated into.
  4. Reportto_be_kept_private | November 13 10:50am | Permalink
    @ricgf - I agree. This article is so biased!
  5. ReportTrevor Freeman | November 13 10:49am | Permalink
    I can't help but feel that this article misses the essential point that the US itself is compromising the spread of internationalism of the internet. There are many documented cases where they have applied US law to the internet as a means of bringing crimes (under their legislation) committed from foreign soil, where it may not be a crime, to their justice by use of treaty. In effect they lay claim to ownership of parts of the internet. That claim denies the international aspects of what is just another means of communication.

    To blame Brazil or other countries for taking action to protect their internet communications systems under the guise of limiting economic freedom is disingenuous. They are responding to US protectionism. The US in laying claim to ownership denies internationalism and seeks to deny others the rights to police the system through international co-operation. It is the US itself that is compromising freedoms to suit its own agendas.
  6. ReportSK | November 13 10:46am | Permalink
    Interesting in that it rather seems to undercut the hopes of the Wikileaks crowd et al in regard to the emergence of a global citizenry. Instead, the internet itself seems to be evolving to more accurately reflect the realpolitik.
  7. ReportServet Right | November 13 10:31am | Permalink
    The opinion does not say in which way Brazil wanting to protect its Citizens personal data is flawed except that it will cost more for American companies. That's why they are lobbying so hard to get this law not approved by the congress.

    Well, have you ever thought that Brazilians might simply don't care about the costs of US companies given what they did?
  8. Report1776 v Red Coats | November 13 9:54am | Permalink
    Don't worry about Brazil. Brazil is not a puppet state like the UK.
  9. ReportCynic in London | November 13 7:40am | Permalink
    Storing the information within Brazil or setting up a national email service does NOT make it secure from surveillance. In fact, it would be easier to snoop into. Brazil and the other countries mentioned like India and Indonesia have a long tradition of government intervention in industry, in the name of national security, and promotion of public sector national champions. Look at what has happened to Petrobras at the cost of foreign and domestic private sector oil companies since Dilma has come to power.
    This seemingly reflexive reaction to US surveillance will take Brazil back to 1980s and early 90s when foreign IT was either banned or subject to steep tariffs. It took Brazil many years to catch up with the rest of the world. We have seen this movie before in many parts of Latin America. Good luck to my Brazilian friends.
  10. ReportUzi Nogueira | November 13 7:36am | Permalink
    Pres Dilma Rousseff is correct to do whatever it takes to preserve Brazil's public, private and economic information from N.S.A cyber espionage. The weakest link for asymmetric policy response is US internet providers operating in Brazil. The ball now is in the US court. Who knows? perhaps Pres Obama would consider curbing N.S.A activities in Brazil to legitimate US national security questions such as looking for Islamic terrorists in the triple frontier with Argentina and Paraguay. If legislation under consideration by the Brazilian Congress segments the internet or increase operating costs to US providers, so be it.
  11. ReportHonest Market Economy | November 13 7:25am | Permalink
    The US has played right into the hands of Ms. Rousseff and her party followers, who had interest to curb free-flowing internet way before the snooping became public. Then, they faced much opposition to their ideas from within Brazil. Now they better arguments, thanks to the NSA.
  12. ReportJohn Harris | November 13 4:59am | Permalink
    This editorial conspires to be both cynical and patronising. Good for Brazil to aspire to control the communications infrastructure that it uses. I hardly expect that the costs of data centres will have a material impact on the economy when Brazil has such economies of scale. As someone has pointed out in these comments, bureaucracy and corruption are the real challenges for the Brazilian economy. But at least a large regional power will have taken one step towards a measure of independence from the imperial power and status quo which the FT seems keen to defend.
  13. Reportwoop | November 12 10:35pm | Permalink
    When it comes to state and local corruption and obtaining planning permission and where you told to buy your land for server storage unit then taxes not lets not forget about Brazilian tax system another joke about the country,Then there will be obtaining a government and state and city license to run the server unit plus let not forget the law also oh yes federal and state laws in effect it will be like Christmas has come again all the civil servants both state and local will be at trough followed by the unions just have plenty of money to share with brazils mass corrupt and when it comes to brazil's infrastructure what can one say joke is the word
  14. ReportWilliam Higgons | November 12 9:17pm | Permalink
    To let US agencies spying on internet is bad for democracy. If US knows everything on the parties which try to come to power means that it can choose the winner by leaking or not leaking.Only a party with no dirty secret can't be blackmailed few parties can pass this test. If Hollande does not seem to be so irate as Merkel does that mean that the americans have gained a lever on him through internet spying ?
  15. Reportricgf | November 12 9:05pm | Permalink
    Switzerland is proposing exactly the same thing - what is your comment on it? Or is it bad only when emerging countries do it?

    1 - A "national email service" mainly means official/governmental communications - just like Switzerland has proposed for its own official emails;

    2 - Local storage servers for Brazilian information: again, absolutely no problem about it, since the market is big enough to attract whatever company it wants - and if they refuse to do so due to US pressure, this will open the road for local expertise and innovation;

    3 - STOP spreading the nonsense that this may lead to "censorship" or anything of the sort in Brazil, which probably has the most liberal Internet access policies and practices in the whole world - freedom of expression is guaranteed, and the only instances where content is taken down relate to judicial orders concerning paedophily/libel/infringement of constitutional privacy/image rights.

    Fact is, the US has failed in its basic commitment to maintain a neutral and privacy-friendly Internet given the responsibility it purports to carry. The outcome? ICANN will lose relevance in the face of alternative infrastructures and root servers...THEY have made the mistake; not the affected allied countries.
  16. Reportrodrigobern | November 12 9:01pm | Permalink
    American government has always wavered on their respect for Internetional Law. Iraq is an obvious case of transgression, like Grenada before it, but there are many other ones. Not respecting data from people not American, and using internal laws to give a legal varnish to spying on them is just too much for any sovereign nation. What is more outranging: having your data read because you had to agree with foreign (in the case 'foreign' means American) terms and conditions and had even those conditions disregarded by NSA, or forcing that data to be stored within Brazil's borders so that those who want to offer their services to Brazilians will have to play according to International Law and to Brazilian law?
  17. ReportDCJ | November 12 9:01pm | Permalink
    Brazil is right to break a global network that allows such rampant snooping as implemented by the NSA. It's my guess that many other countries will follow suit sooner rather than later and Brazil's response highlights the folly of US security policy, essentially blindly shooting itself in the foot with a bazooka.