“I don’t want to live in a world where everything I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity and love or friendship is recorded.” – Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden is a former National Security Agency subcontractor who first hit the headlines back in 2013 when he leaked top secret information about the various global surveillance activities of the NSA including the so-called “Five Eyes” (an intelligence alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom & the United States). When the details of the information he leaked became public, it kick-started a still-ongoing discussion about government secrecy, the balance between individual privacy & national security, and mass surveillance.
After the US Department of Justice revealed its charges against Snowden for “Theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person“, he flew to Hong Kong then Russia where he was granted a years’ asylum (a term later increased to 3 years). Although viewed as a traitor by the US government, many see Snowden as a ‘hero’ who performed a public service, by informing the general public about various governments’ surveillance programs and information-sharing agreements.
A little under two weeks ago Snowden joined Twitter (his handle is @snowden), and has used the social media platform to continue his revelations, including the fact that UK NSA counterpart “GCHQ classified mass surveillance not to save lives, but to avoid public debate” (tweeted October 5th), details of a new chapter of “secret #TPP deal that limits access to medicine and IP“, unveiled by Wikileaks (tweeted October 9th), and even details of how technology developed by the US to spy on individuals abroad is now being “used by our own government to monitor us at home” (tweeted October 11th) Put simply, the US government has planes fitted with DRT boxes (which mimic cellphone towers in order to gather information from mobile phones and other wireless devices), which are regularly flown over the US in order to gather information and track users. This is done without the cooperation, permission or knowledge of the mobile network providers (Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, etc). Last week, we reported on this very blog that the world’s intelligence agencies are able to take over and monitor smartphones with a simple text message.
“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”
The allegations and comments Snowden makes in his tweets are backed up with links to a variety of sources, allowing those who follow him to ‘read around the subject’ and, rather than blindly accepting his claims, “…review the evidence and draw your own conclusion“, as he puts it (tweeted October 6th).
As BlackBerry users, we are already aware of the importance of individual privacy (after all, isn’t that why we use the most secure mobile OS?), however it’s always worth expanding our knowledge regarding what surveillance programs the governments of the world are running ‘behind-the-scenes’ and the security of our personal information and communications.
If you’re interested in privacy and security (and if you aren’t, given Snowden’s revelations over the last two years you definitely should be!), we recommend following Snowden’s Twitter account as an ongoing source of information.