Can Brazil Escape Abusive, US-Centric Internet?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 9/19/2013 09:06:00 AM
Absolute power corrupts absolutely - Lord Acton

Think of Barack Obama as the cyber-equivalent of Bashar al-Assad. Just as Assad does not own up to his chemical-attacking ways, so does Obama not own up to his Internet-abusing ways. All his pleas for "Internet Freedom" as they turn out, are meant to make it easier to spy on you and me. American digital hypocrites are thick on the ground, and Obama is just another one of their sorry lot. It is digital entrapment plain and simple.

Internationally, the US-centric Internet infrastructure which makes it so very easy for the US government to ask companies to disclose information about their users over alleged (yawn) national security concerns has come under sustained attack in the wake of disclosures that citizens and their leaders the world over have been hit by American snooping. Importantly, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers remains a US-based concern despite being responsible for allowing the Internet to function by maintaining control over IP addresses and suchlike. Given the increasing number of Internet users worldwide, many other countries have become concerned that the Internet's increasingly "global public goods" nature is not matched by changes in governance.

That introduction then brings us to Yanqui snooping: (mostly American) critics make the fallacy that since the strongest proponents of imbuing UN agencies with more voice in Internet governance are purportedly China, Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, what they really are after is to improve their ability to wall off their Internet users from the rest of the world. Especially in the wake of disclosures about the extent of US spying, however, there are any number of other nations with legitimate concerns about near-absolute US power over the Internet corrupting absolutely. It is thus fascinating that Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff has been so aggrieved that she put off a state visit to America. What's more, she is urging Brazil to better insulate its telecoms infrastructure from more dastardly Yanqui deeds:
[Brazilian] President Dilma Rousseff ordered a series of measures aimed at greater Brazilian online independence and security following revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency intercepted her communications, hacked into the state-owned Petrobras oil company's network and spied on Brazilians who entrusted their personal data to U.S. tech companies such as Facebook and Google. The leader is so angered by the espionage that on Tuesday she postponed next month's scheduled trip to Washington, where she was to be honored with a state dinner...

While Brazil isn't proposing to bar its citizens from U.S.-based Web services, it wants their data to be stored locally as the nation assumes greater control over Brazilians' Internet use to protect them from NSA snooping...
There is also a fairly comprehensive set of actions Brazil intends to take to better deal with those Yanqui spies:
Rousseff says she intends to push for international rules on privacy and security in hardware and software during the U.N. General Assembly meeting later this month. Among Snowden revelations: the NSA has created backdoors in software and Web-based services.

Brazil is now pushing more aggressively than any other nation to end U.S. commercial hegemony on the Internet. More than 80 percent of online search, for example, is controlled by U.S.-based companies. Most of Brazil's global Internet traffic passes through the United States, so Rousseff's government plans to lay underwater fiber optic cable directly to Europe and also link to all South American nations to create what it hopes will be a network free of U.S. eavesdropping.

More communications integrity protection is expected when Telebras, the state-run telecom company, works with partners to oversee the launch in 2016 of Brazil's first communications satellite, for military and public Internet traffic. Brazil's military currently relies on a satellite run by Embratel, which Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim controls. Rousseff is urging Brazil's Congress to compel Facebook, Google and all companies to store data generated by Brazilians on servers physically located inside Brazil in order to shield it from the NSA.
Internet freedom has become a laughingstock since the most egregious violator of this principle is the United States. If Silicon Valley is hit by commercial fallout over spying, it is well-deserved anyway for meekly playing along with the US government. (Hear that, my blog service provider?) Will the Internet become "Balkanized" or further fragmented as others follow Brazil's example? European governments have been targeted by similar intrusions but do not complain as loudly. OTOH, what benefit do we Internet users gain from the present system which facilitates American intrusion as it abuses its position?

There are legitimate reasons for placing more Internet governance in an international organization contrary to the claim that doing so will simply allow authoritarian regimes to keep better tabs on their citizens. Go ask Brazil. Even if its efforts are for naught as some security experts say, I applaud its courage in raising a question that others have cowered from asking and, better yet, doing something about it. Moreover, I suspect the solution is not for individual countries to try and wall themselves off from the rest of the world but to join nearly-unimpeachable critics of US Internet abuse in asking for basic guarantees concerning security. The pressure being applied at the moment is insufficient, but think of what may occur if millions threaten to flee Facebook, Google, etc. if such concerns remain unaddressed.

In the meantime, do yourselves a favor by not posting sensitive information online. Obama's operatives are definitely watching.