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Why the World Needs a Marco Civil

Nearly four years in the making, Brasil’s Internet Constitution, or the Marco Civil, was voted through the Chamber of Deputies on 25 March 2014. The adopted text was produced through dozens of public hearings, over 2,000 inputs from Brasilian activists, academics and experts, and lengthy negotiations that amended the Bill on the floor of the Parliament.

The importance of Marco Civil cannot be overstated, domestically and internationally. From the open and participatory consultation processes used to create the Bill, to the actual content of the legislation, the Marco Civil can act as a beacon to many other countries grappling with guaranteeing Internet rights and responsibilities in domestic law.

In fact, the first draft of the Italian "Carta dei diritti di Internet" (Internet bill of rights) was inspired by the Marco Civil. The bill will be available for open consultations on October 13, 2014. 

Of particular interest are the strong protections for human rights in the Bill – including freedom of speech and expression, the protection of privacy and personal data, ensuring equitable access to information, and promotion of an open and competitive online marketplace, including through guaranteeing net neutrality.

The debate in Brasil was particularly fierce on two areas, net neutrality and data retention. Ultimately Brasil decided, like Chile and Ecuador, to protected net neutrality in law in order to keep the Internet open, and to protect innovation and competition – a principle that should be enshrined internationally.

The campaign to prevent data retention was lost on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies and now moves to the Senate and the President to delete the requirement on access providers to retain data on customers for one year and on application providers to retain data for 6 months.  

Courts in Romania, Germany and the Czech Republic have ruled data retention as unconstitutional because it undermines the right to privacy, treats citizens as suspects and bypasses judicial sanction on targeted, necessary and proportional law enforcement and intelligence gathering. It also makes vast amounts of data vulnerable to theft or misuse.

These are issues that governments around the world are grappling with after the revelations of Edward Snowden. Given that the Internet is a global network there is a need to establish consensus on global policies to govern the Internet.

As recognized by President Rousseff in her September 2013 speech to the UN General Assembly, the problems demonstrated by the Snowden leaks go beyond domestic legislation or even bilateral relationships. The Snowden revelations have shown us how we lack any global systems to challenge practices that breach both existing international law as well as internationally accepted ethical standards. Current structures for global Internet governance are either non-existent or thoroughly compromised.

Issues such as surveillance, respect for privacy, the right to connectivity, and against unilateral disconnection, the establishment and protection of a competitive online market place, and non discriminatory access must be dealt with at a global level to ensure that the Internet can truly ensure the equitable progress of humankind including by ensuring greater participation of the underprivileged.

The rights enshrined in the Marco Civil should inform the development of a global compact on principles to govern international Internet cooperation and a road map for Internet governance reform and to prevent mass surveillance of global populations, an increased militarization of cyberspace, greater monopolization of the online market place, the continuation of inequitable financial arrangements and a loss of global cultural diversity.

More information: 

  • Learn about Net Neutrality from Free Press. 
  • Read Thoughtworks' most recent Technology Radar to learn about the German term “datensparsamkeit," which means “data reduction” or “data austerity.”

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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