Europeans are apparently very touchy about the idea that any of their citizens could have been targeted by the NSA surveillance programs and are none too happy with the revelations.
Europe, which lacks internet giants of its own, has long yearned to contain the power of the U.S. titans that dominate the Web, and privacy-focused Germany was quick to condemn their co-operation with the U.S. security services.
"The U.S. government must provide clarity regarding these monstrous allegations of total monitoring of various telecommunications and Internet services," said Peter Schaar, German data protection and freedom of information commissioner.
"Statements from the U.S. government that the monitoring was not aimed at U.S. citizens but only against persons outside the United States do not reassure me at all."
The Post said the secret program involving the internet companies, code-named PRISM and established under President George W. Bush, had seen "exponential growth" during the past several years under Barack Obama.
Some of the companies named in the article have denied the government had "direct access" to their central servers. Nevertheless, the justice minister for the German state of Hesse, Joerg-Uwe Hahn, called for a boycott of the companies involved.
"I am amazed at the flippant way in which companies such as Google and Microsoft seem to treat their users' data," he told the Handelsblatt newspaper. "Anyone who doesn't want that to happen should switch providers."
CONCERNS RIPPLE BEYOND EUROPE
The European Union has struggled to assert its citizens' rights to privacy in the United States for almost a decade.
Transatlantic agreements on sharing the financial and travel data of European citizens have taken years to complete, and the European Union is now trying to modernize an almost 20-year-old privacy law to strengthen Europeans' rights.
International concerns also echoed beyond Europe.
In Australia, the conservative opposition said it was "very troubled" and had voiced concern to U.S. diplomats in Canberra about what it called large-scale, covert surveillance of private data belonging to foreigners.
Europeans have done a better job than the US of changing their privacy laws in order to keep up with the technological changes that can threaten privacy. But their governments could never come up with anything as massive as the NSA internet surveillance program because they don't have access to the servers of the tech giants.
The NSA has been listening to international calls for decades, ever since satellites have been employed to relay calls. In fact, any international data that is transmitted via satellite is no doubt tapped by the spooks. Does the internet surveillance program represent an escalation in snooping? When the NSA can gain real-time intel by reading emails and listening in on computer phone calls and chats, the answer is yes.
If I were a European, I'd be worried too.