NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden delivers Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message, saying his revelations on privacy invasion enable people to choose how their governments are run.
In May Edward Snowden emerged from obscurity to reveal insights into perhaps the world’s biggest surveillance operations, run by the US and UK ostensibly to find and track terror suspects.
A former contractor for the US National Security Agency, his leaks of 200,000 NSA files over several months revealed that the US and UK were operating internet surveillance on a huge scale.
He told Channel 4 that George Orwell’s fictional warnings of data collection by an overbearing state “are nothing compared to what we have available today”.
Privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be. Edward Snowden
“We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person,” he added.
“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, unanalysed 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’s original aim was to enable people to choose how their governments watched them, by revealing the extent of secret surveillance programme.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed. Edward Snowden
Snowden revealed an array of top secret NSA spy projects, including attempts to corrupt fundamental internet security systems, trawl information from the world’s leading internet firms, joined the UK on a project to tap Atlantic data cables and also ran a scheme to track the phonecalls of millions of Americans.
US President Barack Obama now says he wants to “review” the NSA’s spying operations, after the chair of the Senate intelligence committee said she was “totally opposed” to US spying on foreign allies.
Revelations about the extent of the NSA’s surveillance has sent shockwaves across Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel is among the 34 foreign leaders who have been spied on for years, according to Snowden’s intelligence leaks.
Snowden told the Washington Post that his mission to give people a choice in how they are monitored was “already accomplished”.
“I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated,” he said.
“Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself. All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed.”
First airing in 1993, the Channel 4 Christmas message – the alternative to the Queen’s annual televised message to the nation – has previously featured a range of presenters, including former President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Afghan, war veteran Major Andrew Stockton, Adam Hills, Katie Piper, Quentin Crisp, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, The Simpsons, and 9/11 survivor Genelle Guzman.
The Alternative Christmas Message will be broadcast on Channel 4 at 4:15pm on Christmas Day and will be available to view on 4oD on Tuesday.