BRASILIA, Brazil – All Brazilian government employees will start using an encrypted email service in an effort to stop foreign spies from intercepting their communications in the wake of the National Security Agency spying allegations that have embroiled relations between the Latin American powerhouse and the United States.
Some experts, however, question the ability of Brazil to protect its government emails from the eyes of the NSA. The entire system is compromised if any user of an encrypted email sends a message to somebody on an outside program, like Gmail.
Nevertheless, Brazil's Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo Silva said Monday that a new government-created encrypted email system will be mandatory for federal officials by the second half of next year.
The Brazilian government is also working on developing an encrypted email service for private citizens as part of a series of moves proposed by President Dilma Rousseff aimed at greater Brazilian online independence and security.
Leaked NSA documents have shown that Brazil is the top Latin American target for U.S. spies.
The NSA intercepted Rousseff’s communications, hacked into the state-owned Petrobras oil company's network and spied on Brazilians who entrusted their personal data to U.S. tech companies such as Facebook and Google.
Internet security and policy experts say her government's reaction to information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is understandable, but warn it could set the Internet on a course of Balkanization.
"The global backlash is only beginning and will get far more severe in coming months," said Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Institute at the Washington-based New America Foundation think tank. "This notion of national privacy sovereignty is going to be an increasingly salient issue around the globe."
Along with Brazil’s Internet independence, Rousseff has kept the heat on the U.S. by canceling a state visit to Washington scheduled for this month and by blasting the country in her speech to the United Nations.
“Meddling in such a manner in the lives and affairs of countries is a breach of international law,” she said.
The Obama administration has been playing catch-up over the last few weeks with affairs in the Western Hemisphere. Vice President Joe Biden visited Mexico last month to open talks on expanding trade between the U.S. and its third largest trading partner, and Obama appealed to Rousseff to continue with her plans to visit the U.S.
"The President has said that he understands and regrets the concerns disclosures of alleged U.S. intelligence activities have generated in Brazil and made clear that he is committed to working together with President Rousseff and her government in diplomatic channels to move beyond this issue as a source of tension in our bilateral relationship," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.