The Internet is a global and borderless network with nearly 3 billion users but individual governments are undermining the Net’s foundation by extending the reach of their local laws to Internet companies worldwide. Europe’s highest court shocked the technology industry last week by ruling that Internet search engines must self-censor search results in certain circumstances to comply with the EU’s data privacy law. And last month, Brazil foisted different data privacy rules on any Internet company with one or more Brazilian users (regardless of the company’s geographic location). This ever-growing thicket of Internet regulations threatens the free and open Internet as we know it.
Last month, on April 24, 2014, Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff signed into law the Marco Civil Da Internet, touted as the Internet “Magna Carta.” It contains several business-friendly provisions that ensure network neutrality and protect companies from intermediary liability (i.e. websites are generally not liable for third party content posted on their sites). But it also obliges Internet businesses – ranging from social media sites to online marketplaces – to follow certain privacy rules, and also mandates how they store and share users’ information. Most importantly, the law explicitly applies to any company anywhere that has at least one Brazilian user, has servers located in Brazil, or operates an office there, or effectively, all Internet companies on Earth.