SXSW Austin, Texas
Snowden’s first LIVE conference choosing to speak to SXSW : “Developers can play a role. The next Twitter or WhatsApp should be both encrypted end-to-end and usable.”
“Remember, adding security is easier for new companies than it is for the big incumbents. The big guys can’t deliver security to their users, because they’re hampered by their business-models. You can tell customers that if they give you $5 a month for encrypted communications, no one will be able to watch them. Many people will be willing to pay for that.”
But end-to-end security isn’t just good for privacy: it’s also a way of nudging spies and police toward proportionate surveillance. Snowden pointed out that suspects who use end-to-end security aren’t immune to spying, but they can only be surveilled through targeted, intensive attacks against their computers and phones. The expense of these attacks ensure that spies target people specifically in a way that is “more constitutional and more overseen,” since each event will be more visible to judges and oversight committees.
“Mass surveillance isn’t effective,” Snowden said. “We spied on everyone and found it didn’t work.” But contractors like Snowden’s former employer Booz Allen found mass surveillance contracts to be so lucrative that they lobbied for its continuation. As a result, surveillance resources were deployed without regard to real threats.
The first question, asking Snowden how he’d change the web to make it more accountable, given the reality that spies will always try to collect information.
Snowden acknowledged that this was a complex problem, with lots of moving parts, made more complex by the secret nature of spy agencies. Still: “We had an oversight model that could have worked” – meaning the Congressional and judicial oversight systems for the NSA – “But the overseers weren’t interested in oversight – the Senate and House intelligence committees championed surveillance. James Clapper lied, and the congressmen who knew he’d lied allowed Americans to believe he’d told the truth.”
Condemning the secret Foreign Intelligence Service Act Court, “a secret rubber-stamp court” to approve spying warrants. He said that the court was secret because the government had an interest in not tipping off suspects, but that a court shouldn’t interpret the constitution with only the NSA’s lawyers present to present arguments. He called for public advocates, “trusted public figures, civil rights champions to advocate for us. To tell us, these guys are lying to you. Otherwise how can we vote? Without information we can’t consent.”
Technology is the first line of defense for internet users.
Snowden reminded the technologists in the room that “Crypto works. It’s not an arcane black art. It is a basic protection, the Defense Against the Dark Arts for the digital world. We must implement it, actively research it,” going on to ask the audience to take on “a moral, philosophical and technical commitment to enforce and defend our liberties.”
Soghoian contrasted the importance of cryptography with the risk that internet users were exposed to by the NSA and GCHQ’s programmes of security sabotage. He was withering on the subject the NSA’s undermining of the US National Institute for Standards in Technology’s cryptography projects, saying it had “radicalised mild-mannered cryptographers. Consumers don’t choose their cryptographic algorithms, the people who choose them are the cryptographers. Those people are
really pissed and they should be mad.
“But they can make a difference. It’s a good sign that they’re mad. The tools that come out in a year or two will be more secure, because the tech community feels it was lied to.”
Snowden addressed the global audience, reiterating that the US has more to lose form being hacked, but “every citizen, every country has something to lose form unwarranted, unjustified surveillance of our private lives. If we don’t resolve these issues, if the NSA isn’t restrained, every government will treat their actions as a green light to do the same.
“Governments have stopped talking about the ‘public interest’ and started talking about the ‘national interest’. When these diverge, something is wrong.
“Would I do this again? Absolutely yes. No matter what happens to me. I took an oath to support and defend constitution and I saw it was being violated on a mass scale. The interpretation of constitution had been changed in secret from ‘no unreasonable search and seizure’ to ‘any seizure is fine, just don’t search it.’ That’s something the public had the right to know.”
Congressman and officials want snowden silenced or killed. A member of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Pompeo, published an open letter to South by Southwest Interactive conference organizers on Friday demanding that they rescind their invitation to Edward Snowden. Representing Kansas’ fourth district, Pompeo has been critical of Snowden’s whistle-blowing. He described Snowden as a “traitor” in the press release announcing the SXSW letter, and said that the documents leaked by Snowden are “now in the hands of other countries.” But there’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents.
Snowden has done more to defend the US Constitution than most members of the US Congress and Senate. people in power will generally do anything to maintain the status quo,As soon as you have a shadow government that is not voted on by the people, cannot be removed or impeached, and until Snowden’s leaks was seemingly answerable to no one as it treated the people like an enemy (after all, why else spy on us?) then all you have is a laughable parody of democracy.
Julian Assange SXSW
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made a rare onstage appearance at SXSWi on Saturday via Skype in a wide-ranging conversation about the NSA and WikiLeaks’ role in the political discourse and online communications over the past decade. “we are all part of what we would traditionally call the state, whether we like it or not”
While most of Assange’s criticisms were aimed at the NSA and other security agencies, he also expressed concern about private entities such as Google and the company’s massive collection of data.
Taser Drone SXSW
CUPID, a Tarot hexacopter equipped with an 80,000-volt stun gun. (Most police-issue Tasers top out at 50,000.) That same morning the team tested it out on a Chaotic Moon intern, who hopefully got at least a stipend out of it all.
It’s designed by Chaotic Moon’s William “Whurley” Hurley, and the guts of the device are remarkably complicated. The power of the voltage creates an electromagnetic field that fries any electronics within 4 or 5 feet of the stun gun. (Luckily, Whurley warned us to keep a safe distance away when the gun fires, otherwise we might have lost our cameras.) Protecting the guts of the drone from the EMP blast was obviously necessary, so it wouldn’t come crashing to the ground after the blast. In the end, the team surrounded all the electronic elements in a Faraday Cage, a conductive enclosure that blocks electrical fields.
The most difficult parts of the project are the autopilot, the tracking device, the facial recognition: everything that wasn’t on display. But the project’s still interesting, because the larger problem isn’t the tech but the politics. Even the most drone-friendly commercial guidelines would probably raise an issue with what’s essentially a self-flying electrocution bot, even if the end result turns out to be no more dangerous than a human security guard with a stun gun. There’s an element of future shock to it; it’s the kind of thing we can imagine 20 years in the future, but not now, not yet. The hardware may be ready, but we’re not.