Snowden: The NSA is ‘Setting Fire’ to the Internet

In an hour long missive, moderated by an ACLU official at #SXSW, NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden derided government efforts to break the safeguards behind our digital communications.

He railed against critics saying, more than once, that undermining the encryption standards that users’ rely on for privacy is weakening the foundation of the internet.

The conversation was his first in front of an audience since his disclosures became public over the summer, according to the ACLU.

The NSA “is setting fire to the future of the internet,” he said.

Speaking directly to the developers at the Interactive portion of the Austin festival he made direct plea: “The people that are in this room now are all the firefighters.”

Encrypting information makes bulk surveillance near-impossible, said Christopher Soghoian, a Washington, DC based privacy researcher and activist.

“The goal here is to make it so that they can’t spy on innocent people because they can,” he said. “Right now so many of our communication is just there for the taking.”

Two points worth highlighting:

No. 1, Snowden said that the tech giants that hold our records shouldn’t retain that information indefinitely.

Large companies should collect information but not hold that information indefinitely. “These things need to age off,” he said.

You can run your business, “without putting users at great risk.”

And, interestingly, Snowden’s explanation for his actions:

“When I came public with this it wasn’t so I could single-handedly change the government tell them what to do.. What I wanted to do is inform the public so they could make a decision,” he deadpanned.

Would he do it again?

“The answer is absolutely, ‘yes’,” he said. “I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and I saw the constitution was being violated on a massive scale.”

For a closer account of Snowden’s chat earlier today is here.


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