When did James Bond get old-fashioned?

In other words: how was the NSA scandal perceived around the world?

By Mariel Navarro

Ever since Edward Snowden emerged onto the international scene, he has been trouble. It is not only him, but also what he has revealed about the United States’ espionage that has shocked all parties involved. Europe and its two leading nations, France and Germany, demanded a response to the tapping of their countries’ most prominent leaders.

However, as time went by, citizens themselves faced a crude reality: a lot of their own data was also supervised by the US. It was revealed that Facebook and Google, for instance, were constantly keeping track of almost every individual’s ideas and actions. In the US, phone companies have also been faced with customer complaints regarding the privacy of their data exchange. Maps and animations portraying American monitoring have flooded the web over the past few weeks to the surprise of some, but not all, enthusiastic Internet users.

In Europe, the waters were relatively calm until recently. Apart from the US-Russia tension over Snowden’s political asylum, Europe had not yet been at the center of the drama. The conflict escalated to a new level when The Guardian symbolically destroyed all the hard drives and Snowden-related files in an attempt to avoid pressure from the government. The bomb really exploded when Angela Merkel’s phone interception was made public. “It sometimes seems that the Germans take US policy even more seriously than the Americans,” says a UCU student. He knows there have been rallies complaining about the American espionage in Europe and in Germany, which have not really taken place back in the US. He also thinks that to a certain extent the information was not as striking as the media convey it. In France the general public seems to simply have underestimated the scope of the intelligence activities. The US and France have had a smooth but sometimes distrustful relationship, and the constant spying on the French government and citizens appears to have increased the feeling of separation between the two allies.

In Latin America, the espionage was condemned, yet the peak of the tension arose when the Bolivian President Evo Morales was kept for several hours in the airport in Vienna while his aircraft was inspected to prevent Edward Snowden from escaping from Russia. Latin American leaders considered this to be a very serious offense and summited shortly afterwards to ventilate their disapproval of the measure undertaken by the European states, probably pressured by the US. The nationals of these countries are not surprised by the US’ espionage; in the end, these countries were under strict surveillance from the US during the dictatorial era. Different from back then, the subject is now discussed in public and covered by national media; but the fact itself did not take them by surprise. The mistreatment of a government leader—such as the president—did amaze them. To put the situation in perspective, the incident was just as polemical and discussed in similar ways as Merkel’s and Hollande’s reaction to the taping.

One thing remains clear: whether foreseen or not, the world was very displeased with the NSA and the American actions. Declarations and opinions on the matter have been expressed by diplomats, Congresses, Presidents, and citizens all around the world. The answer to many questions—in the now open debate—remains hidden, but as more information leaks, we more aware than ever that our actions on the internet are never as private and personal as we once thought.

 

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