Snowden’s leak of top secret US documents has been described as the most serious breach in US history. And it’s constantly brought up that it’s made the US more vulnerable to attack. It’s not often brought up, at least by the US, that their actions made everyone else more vulnerable or why US interests outweigh those of the rest of the world. While one could at least understand the risk of terrorist attacks (although to hear grown ups talking seriously about enemies does seem a bit like what you’d expect on a junior school playground) it’s a lot harder to take seriously the need to spy on allies.
One can’t help notice that the need for such espionage would disappear if countries were more open with each other. Are the benefits of hiding your secrets and spending huge amounts of time and money on protecting them and stealing others really worth just being open? You certainly wouldn’t have the fallout of having the extent of your lies and duplicity revealed. Luckily there seems to be a growing unease with all the spying and perhaps we can start moving away from such a poisonous climate.
If the US isn’t going to do the right thing on its own there will at least be significant international pressure to bring it back into line. Germany is particularly upset over revelations of US spying, for example tracking Angel Merkel’s phone since 2002. We should note that tracking her phone should be just as alarming as tracking the average Joe’s phone. While she may, in some ways, be more important than the average Joe, she has no greater right to privacy. They are trying to get a no-spying deal with the US, though maybe it won’t be a full agreement.
For the rest of us, we have to look to both Brazil and Germany. Along with Germany, Brazil has been a particularly vocal opponent of the US spy programme. Not only have they announced a summit to discuss improving internet security but the Brazilian president has explicitly said:
We consider that privacy on the internet is part of human rights, and its defence must receive priority treatment in UN discussions.
The quote is certainly not just talk. Germany and Brazil have jointly proposed a resolution to the UN that privacy laws must be extended to the internet and electronic communication. I haven’t heard much more since but hopefully the resolution will be passed and we can move to a more private and secure internet.