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NSA: Global 'Trendsetter' for Privacy Abuse

As other countries follow suit, soon there will be 'no safe haven,' warns Human Rights Watch

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

With the United States' National Security Agency 'setting trends' among the international community for worldwide surveillance and privacy abuses, soon there will be "no safe haven," a human rights watchdog group warned in their annual report published Tuesday.

"As the world’s information moves into cyberspace, surveillance capabilities have grown commensurately," writes New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) in their annual World Report (pdf). "The U.S. now leads in ability for global data capture, but other nations and actors are likely to catch up, and some already insist that more data be kept within their reach."

"As the birthplace of the Internet, home to major related industries, and with most global online communications running through its territory or facilities, the U.S. is uniquely placed to conduct global surveillance," the report continues.

Further, HRW notes, the United States' exploitation of constitutional loopholes—particularly those limiting protections for foreigners and regarding the bulk collection of "metadata"—has enabled the broad expansion of surveillance of individuals both domestically and abroad.

"In the end, there will be no safe haven if privacy is seen as a strictly domestic issue, subject to many carve-outs and lax or non-existent oversight," the report warns.

The publication comes days after President Obama gave a nationally televised speech to discuss reforming the extreme overreach of the NSA. Though critics slammed the address as "little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public," others noted the triumph of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for forcing these issues into national awareness.

Following publication of the report, HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said in an interview that, led by the example of the U.S., other countries will be quick to follow suit.

"The US government, for better or worse, is a trendsetter with respect to Internet privacy and Internet freedom," Roth told AFP.


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