How to control the unstoppable?

Mar 09, 2016

Are we discussing how to stop Neymar or Messi? No, we are talking about the essence of everything we do today: the Internet, but specifically in Brazil. On June 2014, the Brazilian government implemented the 12.965/14 law, commonly known as "Marco Civil da Internet", which among many other things, guarantees user privacy (network providers may not store, use or share user data with third parties), unless there is “free, explicit and disclosed consent” or a court order demanding the sharing of user data for criminal investigation. Thus, it leaves the law wide open to a broad interpretation.

It so happens that one of the articles from this law states that whenever the government asks Whatsapp or Facebook or any other application or network provider to release information for a certain reason through a court order (in this case, for a criminal investigation), they have to do it. However, Whatsapp had already refused to comply with a July 2015th court order because they were looking to protect someone's personal data the court was trying to get access to. On August of the same year, the company was notified once again for the release of the information, but did not comply. As a result of this, a judge from São Paulo determined Whatsapp’s complete suspension for 48 hours, based on the "Marco Civil da Internet", to be able to investigate whatever it was they needed to.

The telcos didn't have anything to do with this. They were summoned by the court to block the app across the country for 48 hours, and so they did it. On the same day, though, a judge from the state of São Paulo determined the unblocking of the app, stating that it was not reasonable that millions of users would have to be affected by this situation between the government and Whatsapp.

The question that remains is: how far does the “Marco Civil da Internet" actually guarantee user privacy and internet neutrality, if a simple court order from a state judge as a reprisal can change things across the country for millions of users? Do they wish to control the Internet? Can they control the Internet? And most important of all, do we really have freedom of speech? The law states it guarantees “freedom of speech, communication and manifestation of expression”; however the event we experienced last December was a complete contradiction of that. Every year there are millions of criminal investigations in Brazil. If, for each one of them, there is a determination of suspension or blockage of internet applications and websites which do not comply with providing personal data to answer court orders, the main purpose of the access to the internet, information and freedom of expression will never be achieved, hence the contradiction.

Does this ring a bell? Yes, the US goes through a very similar context since right after 9/11. On October 2001, the US government passed the USA Patriot Act, loosening the restrictions it previously had for searching personal information from both citizens and non-citizens, which can also be extended to electronic data. Later on came the CISPA bill in 2013, which also allows the government to, once having a hold of citizens’ and non-citizens’ personal digital data, they can freely share it across federal agencies and the military. So, even though there are other laws that prevent user privacy, whenever a situation can be related to cyber security or intelligence/criminal investigations, personal information can and will be shared. Tell me about freedom of speech?

Maiara Munhoz


3 years of expertise in the Information and Communications Technologies industry in Latin America, which include project management, finance and strategic planning, and particular expertise in mobile market competitive intelligence. Experience base covering Information and Communications Technologies sectors, leveraging long-standing working relationships with leading industry participants’, CEOs, Boards and Senior Executives in the: Contact Center Outsourcing Services and Contact Center Applications Markets, Enterprise Telephony Solutions Market, Unified Communications and Conferencing Solutions Market and theTelecommunications Market.

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