Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor responsible for leaking information about the U.S. government’s mass surveillance program in 2013, spoke about the impact that President-elect Donald Trump could have on online privacy.
“What we need to start thinking about now is not how we defend against a President-elect Trump, but how we defend the rights of everyone everywhere,” Snowden said.
Snowden said on Nov. 10 that the threat to online privacy is a worldwide problem, which spans from the “Big Brother” laws in Russia, to the surveillance law in China that he said was modeled off of surveillance programs in the United States.
Snowden said the Internet is a tool that was built to empower people, but too often it is used by authoritarian governments to disempower dissenters. To overcome this problem, Snowden said that technology companies need to ensure every communication system is “protected by default” from end to end across the world.
“This election reminds us that that capability is within our reach today,” Snowden said.
Snowden said that he is against mass surveillance because it has failed to stop terrorist attacks including the attacks in Boston and Brussels, where officials were warned of potential dangers but the tragedies occurred regardless. Snowden said that mass surveillance isn’t focused enough to pinpoint specific problems in a timely manner.
“You get drowned in so much information that you can’t find what’s actually relevant,” Snowden said. “Let’s presume [mass surveillance] was effective. Would we want it anyways?”
Snowden said that perfect mass surveillance would prohibit any sort of crime, which would also prevent progress if people wanted to laws to be changed for good reason.
Snowden said that targeted surveillance that employs traditional means of gathering information and gaining consent from the courts has been more effective and justified because it has thwarted potential attacks in Canada.
Snowden said that he is proud of informing the public about mass surveillance activity and wouldn’t change regardless of the fact that he believes the U.S. government has resentment for him.
“No matter what happens, if there’s a drone strike tomorrow, if you know they put together some operation and I slip and fall down the stairs, that’s something that won’t change,” Snowden said.
Snowden said that even though President Obama campaigned on stopping wiretapping, he didn’t fulfill those promises in office.
“[Obama] embraced the policies of mass surveillance, extended them and entrenched them,” Snowden said.
Snowden said this means that the policy on mass surveillance depends more on the will of the American people than the opinion of the president-elect.
“We should be cautious in putting too much faith or fear in elected officials,” Snowden said. “This is just a president.”