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Europeans, Americans oppose spying on allies: poll

The flag on the U.S. embassy is pictured next to the Reichstag building, seat of the German lower house of parliament Bundestag, in Berlin O
The flag on the U.S. embassy is pictured next to the Reichstag building, seat of the German lower house of parliament Bundestag, in Berlin O

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europeans and Americans largely oppose their governments spying on their citizens and those of allied countries, a poll found on Tuesday, reflecting widespread disquiet at eavesdropping disclosed by former U.S. intelligence operative Edward Snowden.

Opposition to government surveillance of private phone and internet data was strongest in Germany, where Snowden's allegations have caused uproar and damaged relations between Berlin and the United States.

Seventy percent of Germans said their government would not be justified in collecting German citizens' phone and internet data to protect national security, according to the poll by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a U.S. thinktank that promotes cooperation between North America and Europe.

Twenty-five percent of Germans disagreed.

Germans were even more hostile to governments collecting the telephone and internet data of people from allied countries, with 72 percent opposed and 20 percent in favor.

About 1,000 people were polled in each country in early September.

That was before fresh European outrage erupted last month over allegations published by Britain's Guardian newspaper that the United States monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders.

Germany summoned the U.S. ambassador for the first time in living memory in October over suspicions that Washington bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone.

Last week, Germany called in the British ambassador over documents leaked by Snowden showing that Britain's surveillance agency was operating a covert listening station close to Merkel's office.

In the United States, 54 percent of people opposed government surveillance of Americans but U.S. views on spying on allied citizens were more ambivalent, with 44 percent opposed and 33 percent saying it was justified.

In Britain, whose GCHQ eavesdropping agency is alleged to have cooperated closely with the U.S. National Security Agency, 44 percent said government surveillance of British citizens on national security grounds was unjustified compared to 33 percent who said it was justified.

Forty-three percent of Britons thought government surveillance of allied citizens was unjustified while 30 percent believed it to be justified.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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