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Globally, people resigned to little privacy online

Frank Bajak and Jack Chang (via AP/ SMH) | June 10, 2013
Internet users worldwide say they have few expectations of online privacy as governments increasingly monitor people's digital lives and Internet companies often acquiesce.

U.S. government snooping does not surprise global Internet users, who say they already have few expectations of online privacy as governments increasingly monitor people's digital lives and Internet companies often acquiesce.

Privacy activists concerned over the U.S. National Security Agency's selective monitoring of Internet traffic called on people to better protect their digital data. But most people eschew encryption and other privacy tools and seemed resigned to the open book their online lives have become.

"It doesn't surprise me one bit. They've been doing it for years," said Jamie Griffiths, a 26-year-old architect working on his laptop in a London cafe. "I wouldn't send anything via email that I wouldn't want a third party to read."

From Baghdad, to Bogota, Colombia, many said they already censor what they write online and assume governments are regularly spying, be it as part of global counter-terrorism or domestic surveillance efforts.

"The social networks and email have always been vulnerable because tech-savvy people know how to penetrate them," said Teolindo Acosa, a 34-year-old education student at Venezuela's Universidad Central who was leaving a cybercafe in Caracas.

Leaked confidential documents show the NSA and FBI have been sifting through personal data by directly accessing the U.S-based servers of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, Skype, PalTalk, Apple and YouTube.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday that the surveillance did not "target" U.S. citizens or others living in the U.S. _ which does not mean their communications were not caught up in the dragnet.

But that didn't dampen the outrage of people who resent what they consider Washington's self-anointed role as the world's policeman.

"To the United States, everyone is suspicious, even the pope!" said leftist Colombian Sen. Alexander Lopez. "Everyone is under observation these days and this should be taken up by the United Nations."

Lopez said he has no plans to close his Google and Microsoft email accounts. He figures he'll be spied on no matter what he does.

The revelation of global data vacuuming could hurt U.S. technology companies if Internet users become disillusioned and abandon them in favor of homegrown alternatives that offer greater security.

U.S. privacy activist Christopher Soghoian said he finds it "insane" that so many politicians outside the United States use Gmail accounts.

"This has given the NSA an advantage over every other intelligence system in the world. The Americans don't have to hack as much, because everyone in the world sends their data to American companies," he said.

Hossam el-Hamalawy, a blogger with Egypt's Revolutionary Socialists, one of the Egyptian groups that helped spearhead the 2011 uprising, said the dearth of locally developed Web tools means many are simply stuck with U.S. sites, even if they know the government is monitoring them.

 

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