Written for Tech City News and first published here.
Mass government surveillance is “much worse in the UK than the United States,” NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden has warned.
Speaking at Nesta’s FutureFest Snowden said the “light oversight regime” here has seen billions of normal people’s communications routinely accessed by GCHQ. “It’s not security – it’s spying.”
He pointed to the recent rebranding of this activity, from mass surveillance to “bulk collection”, saying that: “we have to get the government to admit there’s a problem… we can’t let them redefine it.”
Snowden left his $200,000 per year job working for the US’ National Security Agency back in 2013 after he after he felt he “could not consciously participate in” what he saw happening.
He says officials from the UK, Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia were able to use a searchable database to look through communications records. “Our communications are being stolen and stored so they can be rifled through at the convenience of security agents.”
Snowden advocates end-to-end encryption but says he is “fairly conservative” on surveillance “if they [government officials] have a warrant from a court”. He said he believes the technical side will win, as it’s easier to protect communications in transit than it is to enforce legislation in every country in the world.
He pointed to Iceland’s anti-surveillance stance and said it’s likely that data centres and other services will start to locate there if they feel they cannot be protected from mass surveillance in their own countries.
Today’s “pre-criminal” activity, he said, is “an incredible departure from the liberal tradition… If we go along with the status quo then we will be living in a mass surveillance world.”