Brazil’s foreign minister has said his government is worried by a report that the United States has collected data on millions of telephone and email conversations in his country and promised to push for international protection of internet privacy.
Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota on Sunday expressed “deep concern at the report that electronic and telephone communications of Brazilian citizens are being the object of espionage by organs of American intelligence.
“The Brazilian government has asked for clarifications” through the US Embassy in Brazil and Brazil’s embassy in Washington, he said.
Patriota also said Brazil will ask the UN for measures “to impede abuses and protect the privacy” of internet users, laying down rules for governments.
The O Globo newspaper reported over the weekend that information released by NSA leaker Edward Snowden shows that the number of telephone and email messages logged by the US National Security Agency in January alone was not
far behind the 2.3 million reportedly collected in the United States.
The spokesman for the US embassy in Brazil’s capital, Dean Chaves, said earlier that any response to the O Globo report would be issued in Washington.
There was no immediate response from the office of the US national intelligence director’s office on Sunday, but in response to earlier reports of covert monitoring in Europe, the office said it would respond to concerns of specific nations through diplomatic channels.
However, “as a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations,” last month’s statement said, without providing further details.
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff warned Sunday that Snowden’s overall disclosures have undermined US relationships with other countries and affected what he calls “the importance of trust”.
O Globo‘s article said that “Brazil, with extensive digitalised public and private networks operated by large telecommunications and internet companies, appears to stand out on maps of the US agency as a priority target for telephony and data traffic, alongside nations such as China, Russia and Pakistan.”
The report did not describe the sort of data collected, but the US programs appear to gather what is called metadata: Logs of message times, addresses and other information rather than the content of the messages.
The report was co-authored by US journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has been key in earlier reports on Snowden’s revelations.
In a column Sunday for the British-based newspaper The Guardian, Greenwald said that “the NSA has, for years, systematically tapped into the Brazilian telecommunication network and indiscriminately intercepted, collected and stored the email and telephone records of millions of Brazilians.”
He said Brazil was merely an example of a global practice.