||Former employee at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., an NSA contractor, Edward Snowden revealed effectively limitless information gathering and indiscriminate mass monitoring carried out by the NSA (National Security Agency), an intelligence agency of the US Department of Defence, and its British counterpart the GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), through the UK's The Guardian newspaper and the US's The Washington Post newspaper starting on 5th June 2013. The revelations contained an astonishing picture of the PRISM program, which allowed the NSA to monitor individual users, not only in the USA but also throughout the world, indiscriminately and in bulk by collecting their communication data such as email contents, search history, live chat and transferred files. It did this through directly accessing the servers of US IT companies including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Skype. The Boundless Informant program which was operated by the NSA to collect, analyse and store billions of data of emails and phone calls passing through the US communication infrastructures was also reported.
His revelations have attract heavy doses of both praise and censure; whereas some have positively evaluated his deed as an act of valor to protect democracy against the tyranny of the state, others have criticised him as a traitor to his country that have been preoccupied with responses to the threat of terrorism since the 9.11 attacks. Indeed, on 21st June, the US government filed charges of spying against him.
It is alleged that lively discussions of national security, safety and security of societies, personal freedom and privacy have been generated in the world by Snowden's revelations, and that the establishment of EU data protection rules was postponed due to the disturbing news report, based on his revelations, that the mobile phone German Chancellor Angela Merkel personally used had been tapped by the US intelligence agency for several years. On the other hand, a Pew Research Center/USA Today survey found that 57% of young (18- to 29-year-old) respondents considered the revelations had served rather than harmed the public interest, 42% said the US government should not pursue a criminal case against Snowden, and 78% answered that Americans shouldn't have to give up privacy and freedom in order to be safe from terrorism.
Given that the contents of Snowden's revelation can provoke controversy on the future of democracy, freedom, privacy, national security and international community, these allegations and survey results may raise sympathy of many people living in democratic countries. However, this may not be the case in Japan, which has the longest history of a democratic country in Asia, considering the results of previous work on social attitudes of youngsters in the country towards online privacy conducted by the author and his colleagues.
This study attempts to investigate social impacts of Snowden's revelations in Japan focusing on Japanese youngsters' awareness of and interest in the revelations and their social meaning based on the results of a questionnaire survey conducted in June 2014. The study contains a cross-national analysis between Japan and Spain where a survey using the same questionnaire was conducted during the same period as a fist step towards worldwide cross-national studies.