Edward Snowden gave an extended interview today touching on numerous topics, from the Trump Presidency to his own future. Overall his message was clear: it’s not about thwarting one leader or even one government, but using technology that guarantees rights across borders and administrations. In other words: don’t hate, innovate.
One of the early questions in the interview, which lasted a bit under an hour and was sponsored by Startpage.com, was posed by Ralph Zimmerman, creator of the PGP encryption protocol. Trump, he said, would be inheriting a powerful surveillance infrastructure — something that worries many.
“We should be cautious about putting too much faith or fear in elected officials,” Snowden said. “We’re never farther than an election away from a change in leader, from a change in policy, a change in the way the powers we have constructed into a system are used. So what we need to think about now is not how do we defend against a president Donald Trump, but how do we protect the rights of everyone, everywhere, without regard to jurisdictions, without regard to borders?”
“Ultimately,” he said, “if we want to see a change, we must force it through ourselves.”
Of course, until we do, there are good and bad ways of going about the business of communicating online. Snowden suggested that we need to look for companies “that see you as their primary customer.”
In other words, not Facebook or Google.
“Everything you type into that Google prompt is being saved forever,” he pointed out (to the evident glee of his interviewer, who represents a Google alternative). Whereas in the case of encrypted messaging app Signal, which fought and triumphed over a government gag order to reveal orders to turn over information on a user. Because Signal is end-to-end encrypted, all it could turn over — even had it wanted to give more — was a phone number (which the government already had), an account creation date, and a last login time.
His voice joins a chorus of others calling for companies to rein in data collection ahead of Trump’s inauguration, after which many expect an expansion of powers in law enforcement and surveillance.
Snowden had very little practical advice other than using encryption and two-factor authentication. He did endorse Signal more than once, however, as he has done before.
He also discussed where work needs to be done in the future.
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