Brazil's foreign minister said his government was worried by a report that the United States had collected data on billions of telephone and e-mail conversations in his country and promised an effort for international protection of internet privacy.
The newspaper O Globo reported over the weekend that information released by former US National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden shows that the number of telephone and e-mail messages logged by the NSA in Brazil in January alone was not far behind the 2.3 billion reportedly collected in the US.
Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, speaking on Sunday from the colonial city of Paraty, expressed "deep concern at the report that electronic and telephone communications of Brazilian citizens are the object of espionage by organs of American intelligence".
"The Brazilian government has asked for clarifications" through the US embassy in Brazil and Brazil's embassy in Washington, he said.
Patriota also said Brazil would ask the United Nations for measures "to impede abuses and protect the privacy" of internet users, laying down rules for governments "to guarantee cybernetic security that protects the rights of citizens and preserves the sovereignty of all countries".
The spokesman for the US embassy in Brazil's capital, Dean Chaves, said diplomats there would not have any comment.
But the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement saying: "The US government will respond through diplomatic channels to our partners and allies in the Americas … While we are not going to comment publicly on specific alleged intelligence activities, as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations."
The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff warned on Sunday that Snowden's overall disclosures have undermined US relationships with other countries and affected what he called "the importance of trust". General Martin Dempsey told CNN's State of the Union that the US would "work our way back. But it has set us back temporarily".
Patriota's reaction in Brazil extended diplomatic turbulence the US has faced from friends and foes around the world since Snowden began releasing details of the surveillance.
Germany's top security official suggested last month that internet users could shun operations that use US-based computer servers to avoid security worries. France's interior minister used a July 4 garden party at the US embassy in Paris to complain about alleged US spying, saying "such practices, if proven, do not have their place between allies and partners".
Snowden has been out of sight in the transit area of Moscow's main airport since he suddenly appeared there on a plane from Hong Kong two weeks ago.
The O Globo article said that "Brazil, with extensive digitalised public and private networks operated by large telecommunications and internet companies, appears to stand out on maps of the US agency as a priority target for telephony and data traffic.