Edward Snowden Says Mass Surveillance Won’t Stop Terrorism

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden spent the weekend popping up at tech conferences across the globe, accusing governments of falsely equating terrorism with mass surveillance and calling on Silicon Valley to take action against them.

While speaking virtually at FutureFest London on Saturday, the former NSA contractor called on the U.S., UK and Australia to stop masking mass surveillance underneath sugar-coated terms such as “bulk collection,” which he said does nothing to prevent terrorism.

“They’re not going to stop the next attacks either,” Snowden said, referencing the recent terror attacks in Sydney and against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which were perpetrated by assailants already known to their governments. “Because they’re not public safety programs. They’re spying programs.”

“But the question that we as a society have to ask, are our collective rights worth a small advantage in our ability to spy,” Snowden said according to

Snowden spoke via video to “roughly two dozen people from across the technology and policy world” during a closed door meeting at SXSW Sunday, The Verge reports, which one attendee described as a “call to arms” encouraging tech companies to build better tools to combat spying.

With government reform stalled in Congress and the White House, Snowden suggested companies take more aggressive approaches to securing data, calling in particular for the widespread implementation of end-to-end encryption, which keeps even companies themselves from accessing data.

“The low-hanging fruit is always [the] transit layer,” Snowden reportedly said. “It raises the cost. Every time we raise the cost, we force budgetary constraints.”

“We hope that they start with North Korea and by the time they end up in Ohio, they run out of budget.”

Snowden criticized recent pushes by the FBI and others to mandate companies install backdoors in their products for law enforcement, the lack of sufficient punishment for NSA employees spying on personal contacts and the use of intelligence information to discredit foreign officials.

“How does using porn habits to discredit people make us much different than [the] Turkish government? We need to maintain moral leadership,” Snowden said, according to the report.

In terms of his personal situation, Snowden said he would like to see enough public support rally against the government to allow him to return home.

“[The] government hasn’t felt the pressure; they don’t care about petitions, they need higher-level pressure. It is not a legal issue, it is a political issue.”

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