Interviewed during a visit to Rio de Janeiro, Clinton said nations should be open about security and their intelligence-gathering needs, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported Monday.
Alluding to documents leaked by Edward Snowden that revealed U.S. intelligence agencies had monitored communications by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and state-owned oil company Petroblas, Clinton said such information should not be collected "under the guise of security."
"This should only occur when there is an agreement on transparency," he said. There also should be "a clear, serious and open discussion" about why governments collect "big data" and how it can be used to prevent terrorist attacks.
"What we should do is explain to people what is the traceability of information, saying what the policy is," he added.
While all countries will need to address their privacy protocols, Clinton touted the benefits of access to technology, particularly for the poor.
He cited a study that found for every 10 percent increase in the use of mobile technology in poorer African countries, the country's Gross Domestic Product rose 0.6 percent.
The former president was in Brazil for a meeting of his Clinton Global Initiative Foundation, the first time his non-profit organization had met in Latin America.