By Jeferson Ribeiro
BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil is pushing ahead with legislation that would force global Internet companies such as Google and Facebook to keep data on Brazilian users inside the country, despite opposition from the companies and in Congress.
A draft bill made public on Tuesday would grant President Dilma Rousseff decree powers to order companies to set up data centers in Brazil to store personal information on their users as a way of curbing U.S. spying.
In-country data storage was proposed by Rousseff following revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency monitored her emails and phone calls, along with those of average Brazilian citizens and other foreign leaders.
Even the bill's author is uncertain, however, whether the data storage provision will survive debate and make it into law.
"It could get dropped from the law," Alessandro Molon, of Rousseff's ruling Worker's Party, told journalists.
If the provision does pass Congress, where it is opposed by the PMDB, the country's largest party and a Rousseff ally, it would still require a presidential decree to force Internet companies to store data in Brazil.
The measure was added to an existing bill aimed at protecting the rights and privacy of Brazilian Internet users that has been dubbed Brazil's "Internet Constitution."
Rousseff requested tougher legislation to protect personal data and curb exposure to U.S. electronic surveillance, and she urged Congress to rush its approval, Molon said.
"The president wants this voted on as soon as possible to have a law that protects Brazil's 100 million Internet users," he said.
The revelations of U.S. spying, based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, caused a furor in Brazil and were followed by reports that Internet companies might have given the U.S. agency access to data, an allegation the companies deny.
The local storage requirement is opposed by companies such as Google and Facebook, which say it would increase their costs and erect unnecessary barriers in what is supposed to be a frontier-free World Wide Web.
As drafted, the new legislation would impact the way Google, Facebook, Twitter and other Internet giants operate in Latin America's biggest country and one of the world's largest telecommunications markets.
Government officials contend that in-country storage of personal data on Brazilian users is legally necessary to make sure the information is subject to Brazil's laws and available to local courts in lawsuits involving privacy and libel.
Internet companies, they say, have refused to provide information in court arguing that it was stored elsewhere.
The legislation includes another controversial requirement - net neutrality - which is opposed by telecom companies in Brazil because it would bar them from introducing differential pricing according to Internet usage and download speeds.
(Writing and additional reporting by Anthony Boadle. Editing by Christopher Wilson)