Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Brazil pushes for a break from the 'U.S.-centric Internet'

Wikipedia defines the Internet as "a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to serve several billion users worldwide." What then, if one country decided to eschew those standard and protocols. In the wake of the Edward Snowden NSA revelations, Brazil is considering just that, the AP reported on Monday.

Brazil intends to do this because it considers the Internet to be U.S.-centric, which is probably not a bad description of a global network that began as Arpanet. For example, over 80 percent of global online search is controlled by U.S.-based companies.

Those who understand the Internet know that (in a very high-level and basic description) traffic routes from node to node until it reaches its destination. One could imaging that if Brazil were to "remove itself" from the Internet, traffic would have to route around the country. It's not clear that Brazil will go that far, though.

Instead, Brazil doesn't intend to put up the "Great Firewall of Brazil" and cut its population off from U.S.-based Web services. Instead, it wants their data to be stored locally. This could force Internet service companies such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook to set up Brazil-based data storage centers.

Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Institute at the Washington-based New America Foundation, a non-profit, nonpartisan think tank, said:
The global backlash is only beginning and will get far more severe in coming months. This notion of national privacy sovereignty is going to be an increasingly salient issue around the globe.
Meinrath expressed concerned that -- particularly if such a move by Brazil were to be followed by others -- popular software applications and services could be rendered inoperable, endangering the Internet’s open, interconnected structure.

Noting that most of Brazil’s global Internet traffic passes through the United States, bouncing to say, Europe, so Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's government intends to lay underwater fiber optic cable that connects directly to Europe. In addition, the project is also intended to link all South American nations together, creating what Brazil hopes will be a network free of U.S. spying.

Despite what many might think, Brazil is a major force in Internet use. Brazilians rank no. 3 on Facebook and no. 2 on Twitter and YouTube, for example.

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