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Controlling the U.S. image problem for online freedom

Much has been published about the National Security Agency's online surveillance policies, which is having a strongly negative impact on how other countries see the United States when it comes to open Internet policies.

The details of the PRISM program are still being sorted out months after the Edward Snowden leaks were published. While the scope of the government body's surveillance efforts are still being understood, it seems as though each new revelation hurts the U.S. ethos on an international level.

There are numerous parties that have been affected by the NSA program. From the individual citizens of multiple countries to even foreign governments and Internet giants, it is safe to say that this program is wide ranging – and unfortunately, this is having a profound impact on the international perception of the U.S.

An image problem
According to Computer World, one of the biggest repercussions of these leaks has been how the U.S. is viewed on a world scale when it comes to Internet freedom. During a summit on human rights in Washington, D.C., Andrew McLaughlin, a former member of President Barack Obama's Administration said that there has been a huge level of distrust created in the aftermath of these revelations, which could create ripple effects in a number of different areas.

McLaughlin is now the president of Digg, a prominent Internet destination, and believes that the Snowden leaks in conjunction with trade officials pushing for more Internet filters to catch copyright violators, is leading many countries to grow wary of doing business with U.S. technology companies.

The news source noted that in McLaughlin's case, many of these foreign bodies now see these companies as willing accomplices to these NSA policies.

"If you're an American company that sells cloud services, I think you've probably sold your last contract to a foreign government," he reportedly said.

Sending mixed messages
While many feel that foreign entities are likely to grow weary of working with the U.S. when it comes to the formation of online policies, the U.S. still seems to be content on touting itself as a leader in online freedom, further adding to this perceived hypocrisy.

According to a recent fact sheet published by the White House, Secretary of State John Kerry and the Estonia Foreign Minister Urmas Paet recently signed a partnership statement in Brussels that allegedly would support a free and open internet, while maintaining security as well.

The fact sheet noted that the U.S. and Estonia are both members of the Freedom Online Coalition, which is a collection of governments focused on promoting an open Internet throughout the world. On top of this, they are both donors to the Digital Defenders Partnership, which providers emergency support to Internet users who are operating in environments that threaten those who wish to peacefully operate freely throughout cyberspace.

Of course, the irony here is that Edward Snowden himself is living in exile in Russia and faces espionage charges in the U.S. for releasing the information about the NSA's surveillance program. While the government has treated these actions as those that seek to damage country at large, many within the U.S. see them as heroic for informing the public of just how invasive these techniques have been.

These contradictions are becoming more apparent and making it more difficult for the U.S. to truly hold stake as a world authority when it comes to online freedom. While Congress has taken action to reform these surveillance policies, a bill has yet to pass. Until further reforms are made when it comes to these kinds of programs, the country will not be able to change its perceptions when it comes to online freedom.

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