Re: Wake up and realize this is global.
"Since the birth of nations, organizations have spied on each other. Information is power and therefore anyone with an interest in their own empire will invest significant effort in getting information, both about its own citizens and it's enemy."
This is quite right. There still is, however, a couple of points to be made.
Until very recently, intelligence efforts of the world's governments, while common and often effective, did not include steaming every piece of mail open, employing an army of scribes to copy and archive the contents (and who wrote to whom when), and so on. At least not in Western liberal democracies - even for hundreds of years before they became liberal or democracies, or before mail services became widespread. Today it is possible, including slurping the metadata on phone calls and regular snail mail from billions of people. But this does not mean governments should be allowed - by us citizens/voters/public - to engage in such activities. Allow me to doubt the value of such data collection for promoting/defending genuine national interests of any country, unlike targeted intelligence gathering.
"What does that really mean? To your typical Joe, not much. A massive percentage of people in the world are not affected by this."
I find this supremely ironic as this kind of attitude is clearly rooted in the historical tradition of those Western liberal democracies where "typical Joes" were not spied upon by their own governments. I suspect that some of those who grew up in places such as - ironically again, given the latest news about Snowden - Russia (USSR, if you prefer) might think that it not only affects everyone but corrupts the very fabric of society. Many of the people who have experienced this kind of oppression - and it is oppression, make no mistake - first hand have preferred the hardships of immigration, and in some cases significant personal danger, to move to countries such as US, UK, France, Germany, or Israel. These countries, among quite a few others, are still expected to be - and make major efforts to present themselves as being - very different in terms of how they treat their citizens. Those of us who grew up in the atmosphere of personal safety and respect often tend not to appreciate the significance and importance of things we take for granted, or the ease with which these things can be taken from us. If/when they are taken from us they will quickly - but still too late - become personally significant.
"Are Snowden's efforts going to stop the practices of the US and other nations? I doubt it."
Me too. However, it is generating some noticeable debate, even in the US, it would seem. I, for one, would like to see new laws enacted in the various democracies that would react to the technological advances and will explicitly prohibit government agencies from engaging in such activities (while definitely allowing targeted intelligence gathering). The technological capability will not disappear, of course, but if in the future any civil servant or politician who makes any steps in this direction (or allows others, e.g., through negligence, to make such steps) risks being sent to jail for a very long time if found out, then maybe there will be a reasonably effective deterrent.
Private companies are trickier. People are not forced to use their services, and restricting their activities may be bad for all sorts of important reasons. However, it is completely impractical even today to refuse to communicate with anyone who uses, say, GMail, and so your data and metadata wind up on Google (Yahoo!, Microsoft, Apple, etc.) even if you aren't a user, have never seen or agreed to the ToS, etc. One can start with governments, and if a) a secret court is by definition illegal, and b) a Google exec risks serious jail time for co-operating with such secret court, even if the secret court says otherwise, maybe this may help somewhat, too.
No, I am not very hopeful. Low chance of success is not a reason not to try though, is it?