The United States' mass surveillance of internet and phone use flies in the face of global public opinion, said Amnesty International as it published a major poll to launch its worldwide #UnfollowMe campaign.
The poll, which questioned 15,000 people from 13 countries across every continent, found that 71% of respondents were 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 secure their communications to prevent government access.
"The United States should see this poll as a warning that surveillance is damaging its credibility. President Obama should heed the voice of people around the world and stop using the internet as a tool for collecting mass data about peoples' private lives," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's Secretary General
"Today's technology gives government's unprecedented power to watch what we do on the internet. We need independent scrutiny to watch the watchers so that power is not abused. Yet today there is little or no legislation in any country that really protects our human right to privacy against indiscriminate mass surveillance. Indeed, more countries are actually considering laws granting wider surveillance powers, at the expense of people's rights."
In June 2013 whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed that the US National Security Agency was authorised to monitor phone and internet use in 193 countries around the world. In a snapshot of the agency's surveillance capabilities, it was revealed that it collected 5 billion records of mobile phone location a day and 42 billion internet records including email and browsing history a month.
Strongest opposition to the US intercepting, storing and analysing internet use came from Brazil (80% against) and Germany (81%).
Following the Snowden revelations, there was widespread public outcry in both countries after it was revealed that even the phone calls of Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been monitored by the US.
Even in the country with least opposition, France, the majority of people still opposed US surveillance (56%). The poll was taken after the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Key US allies also oppose surveillance
The United States shares the fruits of its mass surveillance programme 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 US surveillance (70%) as support it (17%).
"The message is clear: even citizens of the United States' closest allies do not want their internet use recorded by governments. The UK and other Five Eyes countries should be open with their own people about how they are sharing the spoils of surveillance our personal data," said Salil Shetty.
People also think tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have a duty to help them secure their personal information from governments (60%) as opposed to those who agree with firms providing authorities access to data (26%).
In 2013, leaked NSA files revealed that tech companies had cooperated with US authorities to facilitate monitoring of people's use of their applications, like email and social media platforms.
"Tech companies have a choice to make about the future of the internet. Should it be a place for expression, or repression? They can ask their users to leave privacy rights at the door when logging on, or give them control over their personal data," said Salil Shetty.