One year ago, on 5 June 2013, the world changed in a very important way. Thanks to the heroic efforts ex-NSA employee-turned-wistleblower Edward Snowden, we discovered that a coalition of secretive spying agencies led by the United States National Security Agency (NSA), was performing global and ubiquitous mass surveillance on just about anyone, collecting and storing their telephone records, text messages, emails, Instant Messages, VoIP conversations (including mass recording peoples intimate video chats), and all websites visited.
The sheer scale of the extent to which secretive government organisations have undermined the very foundations of modern democracy and trampled over our most basic human rights to privacy are as mindboggling as they are shocking, putting even some of the wildest speculations of George Orwell and ‘tin hatter’ conspiracy theorists alike to shame (a great synopsis of the scope to which ordinary citizens have been betrayed by the NSA and its cohorts can be found here).
Despite public outrage in many places (but unfortunately not everywhere), response from the governments concerned has been one of indifference, unconcern, and aggression towards Mr Snowden (while at the same time claiming to welcome debate on the issues he raised).
The stock defence has been either to deny the allegations, or claim that (however outrageous) they are ‘lawful and proportionate’ (the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) has created a great list debunking these claims).
Attempts at meaningful reform in the US itself have been utterly undermined, while in other ‘Five Eyes’ nations governments have refused to even discuss the issue (helped by their spineless media cronies who have ensured a lacklustre response from their citizens).
Edward Snowden himself remains a passportless fugitive from US ‘justice’, trapped in Russia, and outlawed from the county he loves and for which he risked his life and freedom (risks that very much remain ongoing) to save its citizens from their own government-run apparatus of oppression.
Yesterday Mr Snowden released the following statement in support of Reset the Net, an organization that is today planning ‘a day of action for privacy & freedom’,
‘One year ago, we learned that the internet is under surveillance, and our activities are being monitored to create permanent records of our private lives — no matter how innocent or ordinary those lives might be.
Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same. That’s why I’m asking you to join me on June 5th for Reset the Net, when people and companies all over the world will come together to implement the technological solutions that can put an end to the mass surveillance programs of any government. This is the beginning of a moment where we the people begin to protect our universal human rights with the laws of nature rather than the laws of nations.
We have the technology, and adopting encryption is the first effective step that everyone can take to end mass surveillance. That’s why I am excited for Reset the Net — it will mark the moment when we turn political expression into practical action, and protect ourselves on a large scale.
Join us on June 5th, and don’t ask for your privacy. Take it back.’
The point is clear – we simply cannot trust our governments to protect our freedoms – we must take them back ourselves, by learning to be tech-savvy and using the powerful encryption tools that are available to us. The more people who take control of their digital lives and encrypt everything, the more the overweening power of the NSA and its ilk can be resisted.
Edward Snowden, thank you.