The Packet Clearing House is a great repository of knowledge about the way the Internet is developing. Being a decentralized network there is no central entity that decides on things or even collects data about what is happening. So entities such as PCH play an important role. The recent UN General Assembly speech by President Rouseff was perhaps the strongest response to spying by the NSA. The commentary by Bill Woodcock of PCH provides an excellent framework to understand the issues.
U.S. National Security Agency documents from 2012 revealed this month by Glenn Greenwald show that the intelligence agency recorded email and telephone calls of Brazilian and Mexican heads of state as well as the Brazilian state oil producer Petrobras and other energy, financial and diplomatic targets. It is unsurprising that a national intelligence agency would attempt to gather such information, and it can be argued that it was, however overzealously, doing the job American taxpayers are paying for. But it is also a disappointing, though illuminating, commentary on the state of the Internet that it was successful.
In response to the revelations, on Tuesday Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced measures to protect the privacy of Brazil’s citizens from NSA spying:
Increase domestic Internet bandwidth production
Increase international Internet connectivity
Encourage domestic content production
Encourage use of domestically produced network equipment
Rousseff could make these significant announcements not because of any government resolution or investment but because they are, by and large, successful existing Brazilian private-sector initiatives that have been under way for many years. Only those who haven’t been paying attention to Brazil’s phenomenal Internet development mistook the announcement for news; it was opportunistic spin on what Brazil has already been successfully doing for most of the past decade.
Nor is Brazil’s plan a repudiation of the United States. Brazil is following the path of Internet development that has been proven in the U.S. and is advocated by the U.S. State Department. What’s interesting about Brazil is not that it’s defying the United States’ under-the-table agenda but that it’s doing so by executing moves from the U.S.’s above-the-table playbook so masterfully.