Cameron Kerry tries to reassure Europe over NSA spying

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"It would be a sad outcome of the surveillance disclosures if they led to an approach to Internet policy making and governance in which countries became a series of walled gardens with governments holding the keys to locked gates. But that is where we will end up if all data has to stay on servers located in the nation in which a citizen lives or where a device is located," he said. "The digital world does not need another Great Firewall – in Europe or anywhere else."

The speech was the last for Kerry, the brother of Secretary of State John Kerry, in his role at the department.

Many Europeans have expressed outrage about the extent of the NSA's surveillance of international phone calls and Internet traffic. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden also indicated that the U.S. has spied on European missions and embassies. 

But Kerry argued that, taking into account differences in population and Internet usage, the United States collects about the same amount of information as other countries, including those in Europe.

He argued that the Obama administration is committed to protecting privacy and improving transparency of the surveillance programs. 

"Privacy is deeply embedded in American values and laws and the United States is the source of many of the privacy principles that underlie modern privacy regimes around the globe," Kerry said.

He warned that cutting off the flow of data between Europe and the U.S. "would cause significant and immediate economic damage."

"Moreover, it would lead to loss of competitiveness on both sides as other economies around the world that embrace open Internet architectures and freedom to experiment with data analytics offer havens for innovators," he said. "Our economic future is at stake in our international engagement."