In a rare public appearance, fugitive and National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden addressed the audience of the SXSW conference regarding Internet privacy and surveillance.
The conference, which was held on Monday in Austin, Texas, put the controversial U.S. intelligence leaker through via Google Hangouts all the way from Russia, where Snowden currently resides. The U.S. Constitution backdrop gave a touch of patriotism to his emphatic speech, which discussed a variety of topics that revolved around the importance of encryption software in people’s private communications.
Declaring that the NSA was “setting fire to the future of the Internet”, Snowden urged the techie-dominated audience to be more vigilant in “fighting the fire”. Snowden also called for the proactive participation of public advocates from the tech community who will make sure that mass surveillance problems are acknowledged and resolved accordingly.
The annual event, which lasted an hour, was hosted by Snowden’s lawyer and director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, Ben Wizner. It also featured the comments and opinion of ACLU’s security and privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian who said that services must be secure from the get-go. This means that developers have to be better at anticipating security issues as opposed to simply coming up with ways to deal with them later on.
Soghoian added that several technology companies have made vast improvements on their security functions ever since Snowden leaked highly classified information on the U.S. government’s spy programs last year. Despite these developments, Soghoian maintained that the advertising-based models of these companies require the collection of user data, which is eventually accessed by the government.
Snowden concluded his speech by negating rumors that the NSA has broken into popular encryption standards and saying that “encryption does work”. He also declared that he would do what he did again “regardless of what happens” to him because he believed that the U.S. Constitution “was being violated on a massive scale”.
Watch Snowden speak at SXSW
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