Global Responses to NSA Surveillance: Three Things to Know

Global Responses to NSA Surveillance: Three Things to Know

October 25, 2013 5:45 pm (EST)

Global Responses to NSA Surveillance: Three Things to Know
Explainer Video

The revelations regarding the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program have triggered a series of strong reactions from states, including U.S. allies. They have also sparked renewed debate over how to regulate the free flow of information through the global Internet. CFR Senior Fellow Karen Kornbluh highlights three things to know about the world reaction to the NSA surveillance leaks.

More From Our Experts

- Spy vs. Spy: Initial reactions, although strong, are muted, according to Kornbluh. This is because foreign intelligence services "engage in similar activities," she says. Moreover, when compared to the United States, foreign intelligence services possess less oversight, she says. President Obama’s promise to review U.S.-intelligence-gathering mechanisms, she says, would work towards balancing security and privacy "in the new era of big data."

- Reviewing the Open Internet: The revelations have broken down the consensus on the free flow of information across borders, Kornbluh argues. As a result, organizations are passing "tough new data protection rules" and calling for all stakeholders in an environment -- including governments -- to operate on an equal footing, Kornbluh says.

More From Our Experts

- Safeguarding the Free Flow of Information: The industrial era’s "free flow of goods" is parallel to the digital era’s "free flow of information" -- but more is at stake, according to Kornbluh. She argues that a new consensus must be reached that considers "privacy, governance, and other concerns" while avoiding information flow restrictions.

Top Stories on CFR


CFR experts discuss President Joe Biden’s decision to increase tariffs on various Chinese imports and the implications for the U.S. economy and U.S.-China relations. 


Myanmar’s civil war between resistance groups and the ruling military junta has reached a decisive phase.


Despite China’s growing pressure, Taiwan has developed one of the world’s strongest democracies—one that will be increasingly tested in the coming years.