Edward Snowden, former contractor for the NSA, is a controversial figure to many Americans. Best known for being a notorious whistleblower, Snowden has committed his life to increasing awareness for privacy and the handling of data. Snowden takes issue with the current climate of the world as it relates to surveillance, claiming that “the most powerful institutions in society have become the least accountable to society” at the Web Summit tech event in Lisbon, Portugal.
Snowden’s Surveillance Concerns
Snowden, who did not appear at the event in person, spoke to an audience via live video feed. Snowden has been confined to Russia, the only country to grant him asylum, since the United States Government charged him with espionage and theft of government property in 2013.
Snowden spoke to the event following the release of his memoir, “Permanent Record”, that tells the finer nuances and details of the events that predicated his whistleblowing. Snowden spoke on his personal experiences and reminisced about how the atmosphere surrounding government and corporate surveillance and data collection have only increased in intensity since then, calling it “a system that makes the population vulnerable for the benefit of the privileged.”
Why Snowden Isn’t Satisfied with Proposed Solutions
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation is designed to limit and control the way companies can utilize user data. The idea behind this structure is to strip businesses of some capabilities that the public might find overreaching and to help citizens of the EU to better maintain their privacy.
Companies that do not comply with the GDPR may face fines of 4% of their annual revenue or 20 million Euro, whichever amount is greater. These fines have never been applied to a business, giving the GDPR the appearance of a hollow threat. Snowden is not impressed with the GDPR, essentially labelling it an inept solution to a “misplaced problem.”
“The problem isn’t data protection, the problem is data collection. Regulation and protection of data presumes that the collection of data in the first place was proper, that it is appropriate, that it doesn’t represent a threat or a danger,” said Snowden of the issue at hand.
The Current State of Surveillance
Surveillance has increased remarkably since 2013, when Snowden first brought the issue to the national stage. Tech giants like Huawei in China create and sell artificially intelligent surveillance equipment to the governments of dozens of countries at suspiciously low prices. Much like China, Russia also intends to remove themselves from the global internet, creating RuNet and allowing themselves the ability to closely control and monitor the internet activity of every citizen.
Social networks and smartphone apps have more than overstepped their boundaries with the permissions they allow themselves and the data they collect. Many platforms and apps share data with third parties, ambiguously hiding consent disclaimers or misleadingly seeking consent to do so.
With so much of the world transpiring on the internet, our data has become a part of our identity. Everything we do online, from our hobbies to our accounting, says something about us. The more data companies collect, the more infringed upon our reasonable expectation of privacy becomes.
Keeping Yourself Safe
Don’t allow companies to collect personal data from you. By utilizing a VPN like TorGuard VPN and an end to end encrypted email service like PrivateMail, you’re closing the potential for any data vulnerabilities in your life. Without third parties to monitor or tack your habits and conversation, no data can be collected stored. You have a right to privacy online – all you need are the right tools to protect yourself.