Americans shouldn’t curb their use of the Internet simply to avoid having intimate pictures or personal information intercepted by the NSA, according to Edward Snowden.
“You shouldn’t change your behavior because a government agency somewhere is doing the wrong thing,” the former surveillance contractor turned leaker told HBO’s John Oliver. “If we sacrifice our values because we’re afraid, we don’t care about those values very much.”
Snowden spoke to the "Last Week Tonight" host in Moscow, where he has been for more than a year since being charged with espionage after leaking classified information regarding the NSA's extensive surveillance programs.
Oliver asked Snowden to explain the implications of NSA surveillance on racy personal photos.
“The good news is there’s no program named ‘the d*** pic program’,” Snowden said. “The bad news is they’re still collecting everybody’s information — including your d*** pics.
He added: “When you send your junk through Gmail, for example, that is stored on Google’s servers. Google moves that data from data center to data center invisibly to you. Without your knowledge, your data could be moved outside the borders of the United States temporarily. When your junk was passed by Gmail … the NSA caught a copy of that.”
The North Carolina-born Snowden also explained his decision to reveal classified information, saying he wanted to make Americans aware that government agencies were snooping on U.S. citizens.
“I worked with mass surveillance systems against Chinese hackers … I saw that these things have some purpose,” he told Oliver. “What you don’t want is them spying inside your own country. Spies are great when they’re on your own side. When they’re off the leash they can end up coming after us.
“I did this to give the American people a chance to decide for themselves the kind of government they want to have. That is a conversation that I think the American people deserve to decide.”
- Alastair Jamieson