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Spying, security and net neutrality dominate internet debates in Brazil

26 Apr 2014
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Mass surveillance, net neutrality and cyber security were all on the agenda at the Netmundial conference that concluded in Brazil on Friday, as nations tried to find common ground on how best to ensure the internet's future.

The event brought together politicians, academics, industry and leading tech figures such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee to discusses how the internet must be managed in the wake of damaging revelations such as the PRISM spying scandal.

The event took place in Sao Paolo and Brazil was one of the countries revealed to have been spied on by the US in documents leaked by former CIA-contractor Edward Snowden.

As such there was a heavy emphasis on damage such revelations had done to international trust and the internet as a whole. However, the text stopped short of calling for a total end to surveillance schemes.

"Mass and arbitrary surveillance undermines trust in the internet and trust in the internet governance ecosystem," the document stated. "Collection and processing of personal data by state and non-state actors should be conducted in accordance with international human rights law."

In light of this, the document said all nations must reconsider their stance on surveillance and ensure they do not breach infringe on the privacy of individuals.

"Procedures, practices and legislation regarding the surveillance of communications, their interception and collection of personal data, including mass surveillance, interception and collection, should be reviewed, with a view to upholding the right to privacy," it said.

The document also set out renewed calls for greater cooperation between all relevant stakeholders to tackle cyber crime.

"Initiatives to improve cyber security and address digital security threats should involve appropriate collaboration among governments, private sector, civil society, academia and technical community.

"There are stakeholders that still need to become more involved with cyber security, for example, network operators and software developers."

However, the document noted there were divisions on how best to approach the issue of net neutrality, a topic that has been in the spotlight again this week due to proposals from the US FCC.

"There were very productive and important discussions about the issue of net neutrality at Netmundial, with diverging views as to whether or not to include the specific term as a principle in the outcomes," it read.

The proposals were welcomed by some with European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes giving her backing the document's aims.

"Netmundial has put us on the right track. The concluding declaration adopted [...] proves that a global multi-stakeholder approach can produce concrete outcomes," she said.

"I will continue to push all parties in the coming months, based on the Sao Paulo Multistakeholder Declaration, to deliver on the concrete actions identified. We now have a clear set of issues that must be addressed to strengthen and refine models for internet governance."

Not all were impressed, though. Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of web advocacy organisation La Quadrature du Net said the document failed to produce any concrete action that would force governments to act.

"We must obtain the protection of our rights and freedoms through a political fight, by creating a global context that will force governments to protect the Internet as a common good, inspired by previous centuries of struggles for human and civil rights," he said.

Earlier in the week the Brazilian Senate and Congress approved a bill designed to protect citizens from any threat of mass spying and to ensure the web remains an open platform in the country.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

View Dan's Google+ profile

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