Brazil is the latest country to attempt to restructure the internet so that its open architecture is less free-flowing. India, a country whose information technology services industry depends on the processing of data sent from other countries, should hope that Brazil’s effort meets minimal success.
New Delhi, which itself has attempted similar legislation of its own, continues to show a non-strategic recognition of how crucial the Internet’s openness is to its own economic interests. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is planning legislation that would force Internet service providers like Google and Facebook to store locally gathered data inside Brazil. The legislation has been triggered by public anger at revelations of widespread electronic snooping by the United States National Security Agency.
Almost every emerging economy — India, China and Russia have all had a go — has sought, over the years, to rework the internet to make it less American-centred. There is a case for private data collected in a country to be stored in the country of origin. However, service providers might charge more for the extra costs of handling or simply cease to function in the country. Many things that are free on the internet, like email, could become fee-based. The worst danger would be the Internet fragmenting into a set of nation-specific networks: Bangalore would be hollowed out if this were to happen.
The fundamental flaw in such legislation is to assume local storage improves security. Brazil’s software industry is primitive. In the 2013 Cushman and Wakefield Data Centre Risk Index, Brazil was rated as the worst place to store data among all the 30 countries ranked. Noticeably, almost all the emerging economies, including India, fare terribly on the risk index. India has at least begun to show some sense about the issue.
After years of joining hands with dictators to push Internet governance into the United Nations, India has recognised it makes more sense to ask for a greater voice in the existing body, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — something ICANN has been more than happy to do.