Edward Snowden chats with attendees of SXSW 2014

Edward SnowdenEdward Snowden was among the highly anticipated guests of this year’s South By Southwest (SXSW) conference, alongside fellow whistleblower Julian Assange of Wikileaks. In the talk, he speaks about the need for accountability, and the lack of effectiveness in the NSA program.

“It is important to remember that this is a global issue,” Snowden warned gravely as he spoke about the worldwide reach of spying agencies in countries around the globe. “They are setting fire to the future of the internet. The people who are in this room now are the firefighters.”

Speaking from a satellite phone to avoid the massive manhunt currently searching for him, Snowden spoke to a crowd of SXSW attendees who had eagerly looked forward to his talk.

Questions were put forward from many in the crowd, as well as stalwarts in the industry. Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the internet, was among those to send in questions via email. He asked what Snowden himself would do if he could install an accountability system into the NSA. The reply was that the overseers are not interested in oversight. And so they should be overseen, as well.

One of the more intriguing answers came to the direct question of whether the NSA and similar programs work.

“We’re monitoring everyone’s communications instead of suspects’ communications,” Snowden replied, using the Boston Marathon Bombing as proof of that. It is a criticism many have had; if we collect data from everyone, then how will it be filtered and used? That very issue has caused many to question the true motives of the surveillance programs that are currently aimed more at citizens than terror suspects.

An interesting thing to note is that Snowden is not apparently against data collection itself. He says that the issue is not companies who collect data, but governments. Because businesses fall under the pervue of legislation, while such measures can be avoided by governments. A government agency can also use such data to take away citizen rights.

However, he does believe that all businesses should be held to a high level of responsibility when collecting data, and only keep it for as long as it is needed for their business. It should also be taken only with the consent of users.

Source: USA Today

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