THIS WEEK IN SURVEILLANCE

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EDWARD SNOWDEN REFLECTED WITH THE EFF ON PRIVACY PROGRESS. For its 30-year anniversary celebration in May, the Electronic Frontier Foundation interviewed famed government surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden in a video chat roundtable with other experts. 

Snowden, a former computer intelligence consultant, became a fugitive in 2013 when he leaked info from the National Security Agency. The info revealed vast citizen surveillance occurring among world governments including the U.S. and major allies, via intelligence agencies and also in concert with tech corporations like Google, Facebook, Apple and others.

In the EFF interview, Snowden said he felt his decision to tell the world about government spying has made specific positive impacts. But he also stated he doesn’t expect the Constitutional violations of the U.S. government will be rectified any time soon:

“EFF, ACLU, many different organizations around the country have been suing the government and forcing the Court to prove their programs and with the investigations over the last through years, the reports are raising an eyebrow on what the government is doing and saying, well, they’re violating the Constitution.  Well, courts don’t like to jump to the Constitution thing.  They say you have violated the law and likely violated the Constitution.  Soon enough they will say you have violated the Constitution.  But courts always act like 10 or 20 years late.

“What happens in that intermediate period?  Well, what people like you do.  They install a different app.  Maybe stop using Facebook.  Maybe change your behavior.  Maybe you don’t take your phone with you if you go to a certain place where you don’t want to be tracked.  Maybe you start to use encryptors instead of something less secure like SMS.”

Snowden also explained that in the years after his revelations, data encryption has been taken much more importantly and widely implemented:

“For those people in the chat who are not familiar with what is a certificate and why is the EFF issuing certificates.  It’s not like a paper certificate.  All of the encryption that we're talking about for web traffic, this big change that she mentioned, we’re up at 95 percent now is because of the issuance of these kind of security certificates as they’re called, which is really just a way to make the idea of public encryption more legible.  You can look it up on Wikipedia or on YouTube but this is the way all of your communications are protected and this has worked and what Alexis and the EFF are doing.  Your communications are more protected because of this issuance of security certificates.”

Cindy Cohen, Executive Director of the EFF, who conducted the interview, also made some pertinent observations about the unholy snooping alliance of corporations and government:

“There’s a kind of what I think of as an unholy alliance between the corporate trackers and the government trackers at this point.  The companies build technologies that have surveillance built in because they want to know everything you’re up to and often sell it into a somewhat squeezy ad market, or even themselves, just use it, to create information around building technologies and I’m looking at you building technology Internet people.  And also because they want to track and you say target ads to us and that has become the Holy Grail of the Internet.

“And then the governments love it too.  It means they can just go to a company and find out what you have been up to and don’t have to bother with pesky things like making sure you know that they’re tracking you.  And they can use mask techniques like tapping into the Internet backbone or sending a vice request to Google or Facebook to find everything they have.  These things work together.  And anybody [who] says we should focus on one or the other or we have to pick between the two of them they're not dealing in an evidence‑based world, and I believe it’s important that we do that.” 

The full video interview is available at: https://archive.org/details/eff-30-fireside-chat-surveillance-with-edward-snowden.  

The full rough draft transcript of the interview can be found at: https://www.eff.org/files/2021/05/28/eff30_fireside_chat_surveillance_with_snowden_050521.txt 


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1 Comment
  1. James Tricarico 1 month ago

    Had never heard of the electronic frontier foundation….will need to learn more

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