Ed Snowden skyped in to the 2014 Personal Democracy Forum #pdf14 annual conference. Check the conference out here.
Reprinted from civic.mit.edu
JPB: National security is not our borders. It's the founding documents that we still profess to believe in. If we are insecure in our beliefs, then that's a threat to national security.
Snowden: Are we protecting the nation or are we protecting the state? If we are destroying those values, are we really making progress ? Is that what America is about? We say good night to someone we love we have to think about what that's going to look like in a government database 5 years from now. This should be a concern to every American.
JPB: One thing people have a difficult time with is the difference between data and information. Data are facts about the world. Information is something that has been deemed to be relevant in a specific context.
Snowden: One of the biggest debaetes we've had recently is about metadata. Who we called, how long it took. Metadata is a comprehensie record of what we do and who we are. the defenders of suspicionless surveillance tell us not to worry about it becaues it's not the words we say it's just everything else except the words. Michael Hague literally admitted to a reporter that the NSA kills people based on metadata. Metadata tells you everything
JPB: It could mean little as long as the judgements that are made about that information and winnowing that out of the data is transparent and well-understood by everybody who is being surveiled. I took a walk in the Tenderloin and there were surveillance cameras everywhere. I didn't mind that. I didn't mind that there was tech that could pick up the sound of a gunshot.
Snowden: There is a distinction between things that are held in private hands versus things held in public hands. The government can put you in jail. But even though the pricate sector doesn't do as much today the powers and privileges that they enjoy are expanding. The business model of the Internet is surveillance. We need to think about what we want to allow for the rules of the Internet. He mentions the 13 Principles - any information that is collected and used is necessary and proportionate to a case. For a government it would be things like - you can't monitor a whole country because you are worried about a few individuals. For a company it would be siilar things. If you are collecting information for advertising then you can only collect that info and you need a data retention policy that holds it for the shortest time possible. Academics have described it as "Databases of Ruin" - the temptation to abuse the data is high.
JPB: When I first got around computing I thought there was something seductive about an empty field in a database. Now we have a whole culture that does that.
Snowden: When we think about it from a tech perspective, we like to solve problems, we like to collect data. Obama said recently - just because we can do something doesn't mean we should. Sometimes the field needs to be left unfilled.
JPB: There's an old adage "Why do animals lick their genitals?" and the answer is "Because they can".
Snowden: I think you are on to something there. We are not getting a lot out of this. We have created programs that are watching people around the world. The government has had a year to justify this. They have not come up with the justification. Now we see that the programs are not just affecting us but they are affecting the economy. They are reducing trust in our products, our country and our government. Citizens are losing trust in our government. We need truth and reconciliation. We need to end mass surveillance and the violation of our rights. Security is not the only value that Americans treasure.
Snowden: There is a limit to transparency. We don't need to know the names of every target. We need to know the broad strokes of a program. It's no longer a question of who do we trust. Do these people represent our interests? Google has rolled out a new end-to-end encryption campaign as part of the "Reset the Net" campaign. We are past the point where citizens are entirely dependent on governments to defend our rights. We don't have to wait for them. We can do it now.
JPB: In the early days with the EFF, we were in a ismilar position to the NSA. John Podesta invited us down to his office. I pointed out to him - "You have an economy that is going to blow up that will not work unless it's a trusted economy. If you do somethign to that, the consequences to national security from an economic perspective then that will blow up." They don't consider that until they are forced to. The NSA allowed strong encryptography only because the EFF came in and proved that it was speech.
[applause from the audience]
That wouldn't work now because the Justice Dept went in and lied to the Supreme Court and the Court is happy to maintain its position on verdicts where it was lied to.