‘Tracked everywhere you go’: Snowden delivers Xmas message on govt spying
Snowden’s address aired by the UK’s Channel 4 comes as an alternative to the Queen’s traditional Christmas speech, which is shown by the country’s other leading broadcasters.
Filmed in Russia, the address is the first TV appearance of the whistleblower since his arrival in the country, where he was granted temporary asylum in August.
The message starts with Snowden appealing to each and every family, warning them that the scope of government surveillance has gone to the extent that “a child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all”.
As a former US Central Intelligence Agency employee, US National Security Agency contractor, and the person behind the biggest security leak in US history, Snowden gives his assessment of the classic bogey model of the Orwellian state as “nothing compared” to today's surveillance methods.
“The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us – are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person,” the former NSA contractor says.
He goes on to say that “a child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought.”
“And that's a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be,” Snowden adds.
The American whistleblower also points out the importance of the debate which his revelations have ignited. Snowden shared top secret NSA documents about widespread surveillance by American, British, and other governments on phone and internet communications earlier this year. The scandalous disclosures outraged the world - including many senior officials, such as Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, who was allegedly spied on by the US government agency.
“The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying,” Snowden says.
Snowden’s address to the British audience comes amid an ongoing debate in the country over the tightening mass surveillance at home, as well as at an international level.
The latest revelations on the intelligence activities of the NSA and its UK allied agency, General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), last Friday alleged that the US and the UK are spying on friends and foes alike, monitoring the communications of senior EU, UN and Israeli officials.
Snowden said in an earlier interview with The Washington Post that he had “already won,” since the public has begun to address the issue of government surveillance. “For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” Snowden said.
Channel 4’s alternative to the Royal Christmas Message has been aired annually since 1993, giving a platform to diverse figures – many of whom have been deemed controversial. Brigitte Bardot delivered the message in 1995, Marge and Lisa Simpson in 2004, and the then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2008.