It is not very often that you get to hear an exiled government whistleblower talk about his experiences and personal opinions. In case you missed it, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and Laura Poitras recently gave a Q & A on Reddit’s /IAmA that everyone should check out, as it is one of the only opportunities to get to hear Snowden’s own views on topics ranging from the NSA leaks to the pros of living in Russia (unless you were at the 2015 ISFLC). In the thread, one of Snowden’s replies in particular lingered with me:
To tag on to the Putin question: There’s not, and that’s part of the problem worldwide. We can’t just reform the laws in one country, wipe our hands, and call it a day. We have to ensure that our rights aren’t just being protected by letters on a sheet of paper somewhere, or those protections will evaporate the minute our communications get routed across a border. The only way to ensure the human rights of citizens around the world are being respected in the digital realm is to enforce them through systems and standards rather than policies and procedures.
Considered ancient by most media standards, the National Security Agency and their systemic abuse of privacy remains a pressing and continuous issue. Despite the lack of coverage, countless organizations and individuals are still pushing for privacy reforms, and Snowden’s comment touches on an issue that seems to be under-emphasized. While policy changes and enforcement are critical and necessary to make progress towards better privacy protection, creating a broad coalition and using personal privacy protection are required to create real and sustainable privacy protection.
Government spying and privacy violations have seemingly fallen to the back burner for many activists and average citizens. Both Congress and President Obama feigned concern over the massive violation of American’s privacy, but have done absolutely nothing to stop it. Activists should expect any reforms that come to fruition to preserve the government’s current powers and operations while simultaneously saving face. Snowden is correct in saying that, if we really want to protect our privacy, it needs to become a global issue for everyone, and citizens must take it upon themselves to protect their privacy with whatever means possible. Anything short of this, and privacy protection is guaranteed only by “a sheet of paper somewhere,” doomed to “evaporate the minute our communications get routed across a border.” (more…)