Internet Surveillance in Brazil (2)

I’ve been catching up with what has been going on in Brazil in terms of Internet surveillance over the past few months. The good news is that the opposition has had some success in persuading several members of Brazil’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, to take their criticisms seriously.

Sérgio Amadeu, who is an Professor at the Faculade Cásper Líbero in São Paulo, a self-described ‘militant for free software’, and one of the originators of the ‘NÃO’ campaign against the proposed bill of Senator Azeredo, reported in December on the outcome of a public consultation on the bill and a flashmob protest against it in São Paulo in November. The outcome has been that a new counter-proposal is being developed by various activist organisations and individuals together with Deputy Julio Semeghini favouring Internet freedom. In fact, the proposal would recast Azeredo’s proposed law on the basis of net citizenship rather than cybercrime.

Professor Amadeu claims that now the Ministry of Justice is in contact with the campaign and that the Secretary for Legislative Affairs at the Ministry, Pedro Abramovay, has apparently shown that he is rather more interested in an appropriate balance between Internet freedom and security. I am always rather suspicious about talk of ‘balance’ in these contexts, and we still don’t know who these impressions will be transformed into action or how many lower house legislators share Deputy Semeghini’s view, but it sounds like there is some reason to be positive – that and the fact that as of today, 134494 people have signed the petition against Azeredo’s bill.

Internet Surveillance in Brazil

At the same time as the UK government is pressing ahead with its plans for a massive database of all communications (that even the European Commission doesn’t like), and the US Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review has ruled that warrantless Internet surveillance is constitutional, Brazilian lawmakers are also attempting to restrict Internet liberties in the name of security.

In particular Senator Eduardo Azeredo last year pushed a ‘cybercrime’ bill through the upper house of parliament, that includes measures to create fixed identities for ISPs and IP numbers – see this blog post from my host, Rodrigo Firmino back in October when this first came to light. The struggle over this bill has been going on since 2006 and there are a whole host of other controversial measures particularly around cracking mobile phones which also seem to be not much more than ways of putting more money in the pockets of telecoms companies… there are more details,links to legal analyses, and a translation of the law into English here.

The Brazilian anti-Internet Surveillnce Campaign
The Brazilian anti-Internet Surveillance Campaign

Whatever the justifications or political objections – and there is a widespread campaign now ongoing as the bill still has not cleared the other chamber of parliament here – this would seem to be technically difficult, could effectively destroy the productive and collaborative use of the Internet in Brazil, but would also be very expensive with little actual benefit. I will be trying to arrange an interview with Senator Azeredo while I am here – as well as talking to the objectors.