Late Wednesday, British publication the Guardian published a report on the U.S. National Security Agency, or NSA, allegedly having access to call records from Verizon (NYSE:VZ), starting an avalanche of accusations of snooping by the U.S. government on citizens. On Thursday, the Washington Post revealed an alleged data mining program also run by the NSA called Prism, which is basically a collaborative effort between the government and the most popular Internet services. Big Internet players like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Skype, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and YouTube are all part of the Prism initiative, which allows the government to look into live communication on any of the platforms, as well as into any archived content.
The story has since exploded in Western media, with many reacting in outrage over the breach of privacy. It was unfortunate for the White House that the story should break ahead of the Barack Obama-Xi Jinping Sunnylands Summit in California, where cybersecurity and hacking, particularly accusations made against China, will likely be one of the many topics to be discussed.
China’s netizens on the county’s most popular social media platform, Weibo, sounded off on the news that they are not the only population being cyberwatched by their government.
Some reacted by welcoming American Internet users to the club. “This is nothing to us, right? Welcome, I guess,” one user said. “Uncle Sam, join us!” another added.
But others had their hopes dashed. “Oh, so there is no good government,” a user lamented. “Freedom is at risk everywhere. Those over the wall need to be cautious,” another blogger said in response, referencing China’s censorship force, the Great Firewall.
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Other users were not necessarily shocked by the news and even expressed a preference for openly acknowledged surveillance and censorship. “Are people really surprised? China and America are closer. But here’s the difference: The U.S. does the job in secret, and the Chinese do the job in the open. I know what I prefer,” wrote one user.