The United States’ mass surveillance of internet and mobile phone use flies in the face of global public opinion, according to a new poll published today by Amnesty International. The release marks the launch of a worldwide UnfollowMe campaign, a global initiative calling on the leaders of the U.S. and UK – as well as their close allies – to ban indiscriminate mass surveillance and intelligence sharing.
The poll, which questioned 15,000 people in 13 countries across every continent, found that 71% of respondents are strongly opposed to the United States monitoring their internet use. Meanwhile, nearly two thirds said they wanted tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to block governments accessing their data.
The majority of U.S. citizens (63%) are against their government’s surveillance scheme compared to only 20% in favor.
“International public opinion clearly supports the scale back of mass surveillance,” said Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.
“If he wanted to, President Obama could halt surveillance programs that are jeopardizing the privacy of tens of millions of people around the world—he has the authority. He mandated limited protections for non-citizens more than a year ago, but they still haven’t come to fruition.
"Despite the President’s promises of reform, mass surveillance could prove to be a permanent scar on the USA’s human rights record, just like unlawful drone strikes and impunity for CIA torture."
In June 2013 whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency was authorized to monitor phone and internet use in 193 countries around the world, collecting 5 billion records of mobile phone location a day and 42 billion internet records – including email and browsing history – a month.
“We’ve got agencies looking through webcams into people’s bedrooms. And they’re collecting billions of cell phone location records a day,” whistle-blower Edward Snowden said on Amnesty International’s blog today. “They know where you got on the bus, where you went to work, where you slept, and what other cell phones slept with you.”
The enemy within?
In the United States, less than a quarter of U.S. citizens approve of their government spying on them.
Likewise, only 20% approve of technology companies giving the government access to data like emails, messages and social media activity.
Among Americans aged 60 or above, the number drops even more — only 13 percent approve of their government spying on them/nearly 75% disapprove
Half of U.S. citizens polled approve of spying on foreign national inside the United States
In contrast, when it came to people living around the world, support for surveillance drops 14 points, to 36% of U.S. citizens polled
Opposition to U.S. mass surveillance strongest in Brazil, Germany
Strongest opposition to U.S. intercepting, storing and analysing internet use came from Brazil (80% against) and Germany (81%)
Key US allies also oppose surveillance
The United States shares the fruit of its mass surveillance program with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom under the Five Eyes Alliance. Even in these countries, more than three times as many people oppose U.S. surveillance (70%) as support it (17%)
Tech companies under pressure to help, not hinder, privacy rights
- People also think tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Facebook have a duty to secure their personal information from governments (60%) as opposed to providing the data to the authorities (26%)
Surveillance at home
In all 13 countries covered by the poll, people do not want their own government to intercept, store and analyze their phone and internet use. On average, more than twice as many people oppose surveillance by their government (59%) as those who approved (26%).
- Most opposed to mass surveillance by their own government are people in Brazil (65%) and Germany (69%). Spain (67%), where reports that the NSA tapped 60 million Spanish phone calls were met with outrage in 2013, also topped the opposition table (67%).
NOTE TO EDITORS
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. YouGov conducted separate polls in 13 different countries. Total sample sizes in each country range from 1000 to 1847 respondents. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4 – 16 February. The surveys were carried out online. The figures in each of the 13 country surveys have been weighted and are representative of all adults (aged 18+) living in the relevant countries.
All multi-country averages have been calculated by Amnesty International.
On March 10, a lawsuit was filed in U.S. federal court, with Amnesty International USA as a plaintiff, challenging NSA mass surveillance.
On March 5, Amnesty International joined other human rights organizations in calling on the European Court of Human Rights to rule on the legality of mass surveillance being carried out by the UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ.