Friday 16 December 2016

SumTips: 5 Highlights of Snowden’s Twitter Interview

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American whistleblower and digital privacy advocate Edward Snowden made an online appearance this week in an hour-long interview with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey. The Periscope livestream remains available; for an overview of what was said, read on:
On government: The government can’t look into your life. As long as there isn’t concrete evidence that you have done something wrong, you’re supposed to be left alone. And this is why in our language we have two broad classes of participants in society. We’ve got private citizens who are supposed to be left alone, very little is supposed to be known about them. And then public officials. These are our elected representatives, high chiefs who are the ones carrying out the government’s will and supposed to be representing us. We need to know what they’re doing (emphasis added). 
On fake news: There is a sad thing that is happening in journalism right now where it feels a little bit like the truth doesn’t matter so much anymore. You get real news stories that are well reported that go out there and nobody in the Twitter realm retweets them. They’re not that interesting; they don’t make you jump out of your seat. But if you put something crazy out there, something that does make people argue about it, something that does make people be offended by it, or interested in it, or go ‘Is that true?’, they will share it, it will expand, people will talk about it, even if it’s not true.  
The problem of fake news isn’t solved by hoping for a referee, but rather because we as participants, we as citizens, we as users of these services, help each other. We talk and we share and we point out what is fake. We point out what is true. The answer to bad speech is not censorship. The answer to bad speech is more speech. We have to exercise and spread the idea that critical thinking matters, now more than ever given the fact that lies seem to be getting very popular.
On joining Twitter: What if you could tell your own story? What if you could immediately get it out there? What if you didn’t have to wait? What if you had your own voice? What if you had your own platform? This is the beauty of the internet, is that everybody is able to participate. Everybody is able to share. Everybody is able to broadcast. And you can be judged on the basis of your ideas. Can the facts that you put forward be confirmed? Is this stuff actually real? When it works as intended, it’s beautiful. Even if you’re facing the most corrupt and powerful bureaucracies in the world, you can still be heard. Maybe not by everybody, but by an extraordinary crowd.  
On making America more private: The first thing is to care. It’s getting easier and easier to try to withdraw within ourselves, within our families, within our homes. A lot of people have very tough lives. They work hard. They’ve got multiple jobs. They get home at night and they don’t want to think about politics, they don’t want to think about the problems that we’re all facing. They just want to watch their shows, forget for a few hours before they have to get up in the next morning and do it all over again, but I think we should consider that that’s something that disempowers us.  
You don’t have to live in a country where every time you dial the phone you have to worry about what it’s going to look like in a database. You don’t want to be in the kind of world where everything you type into a Google search box is known forever and shared with God knows who. We can build that.  
But it’s not enough to believe in something. It’s not enough to visualize that better world. You actually have to stand up for it. You have to risk something. You have to dare. You have to actually act. Coordinate. Talk to the people around you. Organize. And if you don’t have time, if you simply can’t, if you’ve tried and there’s no way to do that, and somehow still manage to have enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do, give resources to those who can. Invest some part of yourself, whether it’s your money, whether it’s your time, whether it’s making phone calls in organizations that actually will fight to make that better, more fair, more free world.  
On the future of surveillance: The police don’t need a warrant to get your metadata from a phone company. They don’t need a warrant to get your metadata in many cases from a technology company.  And this is a very, very dangerous thing. But why? 
It’s not just who you call. That’s the one example we use to break it down because it’s simple. It’s everyone you’ve ever called. Forever. When you called them. It’s where you called them from.  It’s what you paid for, it’s every border you’ve crossed, every purchase you make, every email you’ve sent, every website you’ve visited, everywhere your phone traveled. These things are creating records about you, activity records about you that are far more granular, far more detailed and far more complete than any team of surveillance agents, any team of covert agency operators could create on anyone even if they all work together just to watch one person. But they don’t actually have to target you anymore. This happens automatically. It happens without anybody doing anything at all. It just happens because that’s how computers work. 
This is the central problem of the future. How do we return control over our identities to the people themselves?

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