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And a new coalition of states, led by Germany and Brazil, has taken up the mantle of Internet freedom to press these efforts, while the Freedom Online Coalition strives to restore its credibility.It is critical to continue pushing the US and UK for real reform, but the rest of the world should not wait for them to act.
While the US asserts it will not use intelligence gathering to quash dissent or discriminate, governments have repeatedly used surveillance to these ends.
President Obama has welcomed a debate about modern surveillance, but talk of safeguards and reform in the US has led to little or no discernible change for global Internet users.
Until the summer of 2013, the global movement for Internet freedom had been gaining momentum.
A diverse range of governments had formed the Freedom Online Coalition and publicly committed to promoting a free, open, and global Internet through coordinated diplomatic efforts, led by the United States, United Kingdom, and their allies.
In defending its program, neither government has been fully willing to recognize the privacy interests of people outside its borders. In 2014, several important actors stepped into the leadership void left by the US and UK.
Major UN human rights institutions have begun to articulate what it means to protect privacy when technology makes surveillance potentially ubiquitous.In a 2008 visit to the United Kingdom, US General Keith Alexander, then-director of the NSA, asked, “Why can’t we collect all the signals, all the time?” The UK set out to meet that challenge with its Tempora program, which involves mass interception of data flowing over 200 undersea cables connecting Europe to the Americas, Africa, and beyond.Left unchecked, this dynamic could soon produce a world in which every online search, electronic contact, email, or transaction is stored away in one or more government databases.With no government able to ensure the privacy of its own citizens from foreign snooping and intelligence agencies teaming up to share data about the citizens of other countries, a truly Orwellian scenario could unfold.This Email Newsletter Privacy Statement may change from time to time and was last revised 5 June, 2018.Computer components destroyed at the behest of Britain's GCHQ spy agency that the Guardian newspaper used to store documents leaked to it by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.In a blistering critique at the UN in September 2013, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff condemned these practices: “In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy,” Rouseff declared.“The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating the rights of citizens of another country.” Snowden’s revelations laid bare the rift between the stated values of the US and UK and their behavior.Even while championing an open and free Internet, these governments were collecting data on hundreds of million people worldwide every day, including, in the case of the US, Dilma Rousseff herself.To make it easier to spy on people online and identify security threats, they have also surreptitiously weakened Internet security, paradoxically making all Internet users less safe and more vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves.