SXSW is an interactive music/film/tech conference and festival located in Austin, Texas. The event lasts upwards of a week and is commonly attended by A-listers from all industries. Edward Snowden is the infamous former NSA whistleblower who uncovered privacy violations and revealed questionable surveillance practices of the US government.
Yesterday, the two met. Having been on the run from US law enforcement since June 2013, this was the first time the man has ever directly addressed the American public. Edward Snowden gave a rare public talk via the internet, casting from his location in Russia. Through multiple proxy servers, Snowden was able to conceal his location to deliver his message to attendees and particularly to the tech industry.
He said he was compelled to leak the files because the “Constitution was being violated on a massive scale.” The result of the decision has led him to be a fugitive and traitor to his home country, at least in the eyes of the law. However, when asked if he would do it again, he replied “Absolutely. Regardless of what happens to me, this is something we had a right to.”
“South by Southwest and the tech community, the people in the room in Austin, they’re the folks who can fix this,” he continued, “There’s a political response that needs to occur, but there’s also a tech response that needs to occur.”
He believes that the NSA’s choice for mass surveillance has hindered their ability to effectively counter terrorism due to an overload of information.a He detailed three tips for digital privacy:
1. Use Tor – Tor is a network that runs the user’s web activity to be concealed by running through several proxies. Silk Road, the notorious website that sold illicit drugs, ran Tor to protect its patrons.
2. Use browser plug-ins to prevent being tracked – Nearly all current web browsers allow plug-ins to customize user experiences, and Snowden suggests downloading one that will prevent websites from tracking activity. Tracking is very common, and a simple plug-in like Ghostery enables users to prevent it.
3. Encrypt the hard drive – Most operating systems offer some form of encryption. Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 8 offers Bitlocker, which allows users to encrypt their entire hard drive. iOS users can go online for tutorials on how to turn on hard drive encryption.
Edward Snowden was received with applause when he surprised SXSW attendees, and was given a standing ovation when he concluded the talk.