Snowden asked developers to design with privacy in mind, and stated that while encryption is a good first step, entirely new protocols need to be designed to ensure privacy in the future.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke at the HOPE X hacker conference in New York this weekend. He asked developers to champion privacy, designing systems that, by design, protect the privacy and rights of its users. He also spoke about his own intentions towards building privacy protection software.
Snowden was speaking at the conference via video feed from Russia, where he currently has asylum after the US cancelled his passport after he leaked documents from the NSA on government surveillence programs.
When asked what people working in technology can do to help promote privacy, Snowden commented that encryption is an important first step, but that it is not a definitive solution. To protect the privacy of users, entirely new protocols and infrastructure needs to be designed.
“Encryption protects the content but we forget about associations,” explains Snowden. “These programs, like section 215 [of the Patriot Act] and mass surveillance in general is not about surveilling you, it’s not about surveilling me. It’s about surveilling us collectively. It’s about watching the company. For everybody in the country and on a global scale.”
“This is basically a big data program which provides the raw data that can then be analyzed, it can be filtered, it can be subjected to rules for example… it says everything you do is being analyzed, it’s being weighted, it’s being measured and that’s without regard to whether or not you’ve done anything wrong.”
Snowden talked about how govrenment surveillance programs, in his opinion boil down to an “unreasonable seizure” of information. In his opinion it’s a violation of due process, “where the government is basically saying we’re going to use warrantless surveillance to collect evidence to then secretly use it to get a warrant application”.
HOPE – Hackers On Planet Earth. According to their website, it is “one of the most creative and diverse hacker events in the world”
To improve privacy from a practical standpoint, Snowden has done some thinking: “We need to have protocols that are resistant to traffic analysis. They need to be padded, basically, even if there’s some level of performance penalty. So you can’t look at differences in for example Skype conversations and tell which phoneme or word was spoken based on packet size and signaling speed and so on and so forth. You also need to use some sort of mixed routing, some sort of shared infrastructure, that divorces the individual connection from the individual orgination point. And that’s still a hard problem. We haven’t solved that in a performance respecting manor.”
“We need to think about software as a means of expressing our freedom, but also defending our freedom,” added Snowden. You can watch his entire interview here, at HOPE X’s website.