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Edward Snowden Issues “Calls To Arms” To Defeat Government Surveillance

Friday, November 6th, 2015

Edward Snowden has issued a “call to arms” for the tech companies in order to defeat the surveillance efforts of the governments. Speaking at SXSW Interactive festival, the NSA contractor turned whistleblower discussed a variety of issues with the audience and even issued a roadmap on how technology can become the savior of privacy in this digital age. The hour long session was conducted via Google Hangout and was attended by more than two dozen tech leaders, venture capitalists, policy experts and even former White House technology officers.

While revealing the details about the meeting, Sunday Yokubaitis, President of Golden Frog and one of the participants of the event; said that Snowden pointed out since the policy reforms were lagging far behind, tech companies should be more proactive in introducing secure technologies that could block surveillance efforts of the spy agencies or make it difficult for them to carry out their bulk data collection activities. As an example of the policy lag, he cited the example of the Stingray technology which shows that law enforcement agencies are now routinely using surveillance tools that were once considered too extreme. Snowden also stated that by introducing anti-surveillance security measures like end-to-end encryption (which he termed as vulnerable due to lack of investments), tech companies can raise the cost of surveillance and force the intelligence agencies to revisit their priorities.

During the meeting, Snowden also came down harshly on the proposed measures that would open phone communications for wiretapping. Terming the proposed legislation as Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) part 2, he stated that he did agree with FBI director’s viewpoint that tech products and communication networks needed backdoors in order to prevent them from going dark as more and more criminals move to the internet. He was also critical of the punishment meted out by the NSA to its employees spying on lovers or spouses and said that the spy agency’s actions prove that spying is more important to it than providing justice to the people whose data was being spied upon.

Snowden also suggested having an incentive system for experts and technologists who discover critical vulnerabilities in security infrastructure. He stated that by having a community that works in the interests of the people, we can thwart the efforts of the governments who want the vulnerabilities to remain unpatched.

Snowden also held a brief question and answer session at the end of the meeting. When asked about the obligations of tech companies regarding disclosing how they actually use user data and the ethics of data analysis, Snowden said that tech companies must be fully transparent and should always have an opt-in policy. This would allow the end users to have control over their data as well as how it is being used by the service providers. He also warned that if companies did not seek permission of the users before capturing and using their data, they risk attracting lawsuits when such practices get exposed.

November 6, 2015

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