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Edward Snowden Says That Surveillance In UK Has No Limit

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Former NSA analyst and whistleblower Edward Snowden continues to leak sensitive details about the surveillance programs used by the governments and corporations to snoop upon the private lives of ordinary citizens. In a virtual interview with Guardian’s John Naughton, Snowden claimed that state surveillance in United Kingdom has no limits and it goes far beyond than what is being monitored by the American intelligence agencies. The interview was conducted as a part of Observer Ideas festival which was held in Central London in the month of October.

While talking about the surveillance scenario in Britain, Snowden said that the intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is free to collect information that it finds interesting without any oversight. He also blamed the UK authorities for running a surveillance system where anything can be done without facing consequences. He also lamented the fact that while the government is able to collect personal data of citizens without following any guidelines, the people under surveillance are not given a chance to challenge the practice in the courts. Snowden claimed that the surveillance system currently in use undermines the justice system and is heavily stacked in the favor of the authorities.

Edward Snowden was also surprised by the lack of coverage of this massive invasion of citizen privacy by the British media. While appreciating the efforts of papers like Guardian for raising awareness about surveillance and privacy, he claimed that other newspapers either covered the issue in a very hostile manner or did not cover it at all. He also said that by not questioning the state sponsored surveillance, the media is in fact doing a big disservice to the British public.

People familiar with the surveillance culture prevalent in UK would not be surprised by Snowden’s revelations. London is frequently cited as the city with most CCTV cameras in the world and statistics suggest that an average Londoner is photographed at least 300 times per day by a surveillance camera. The situation in the rest of UK is not any better and surveys conducted by the police departments have revealed that there are anywhere between 1.85 – 4.2 million CCTV cameras in the entire country. Still, online surveillance is a different ballgame altogether since you never know who is collecting your personal data, what is being done with it and for how long it would remain stored. Also, since there are multiple parties involved (ISPs, intelligence agencies, web service providers); your data gets collected several times and is analyzed by multiple parties for surveillance and marketing.

During the event, Snowden also criticized Silicon Valley corporations like Google and Facebook for co-operating with the governments and breaching the trust of their users. He predicted that reigning in the data collection practices of private companies would be a lot more difficult than fighting the surveillance tactics used by the authorities. Explaining his stance, Snowden stated that corporations have become far too powerful which suggests that they are able to get friendly policies approved in return for their co-operation with the government.

January 20, 2015

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