Edward Snowden has explained why the Western world no longer seems to care about its privacy, despite the NSA leaks and the threat of continued government surveillance.
In a documentary with Vice, Snowden described the extent in which the NSA and other agencies can monitor members of the general public, explaining that as long as there are the resources for them to do so, the government can effectively spy on any of its citizens. Detailing what kind of information the government could access in an individual’s phone if they were hacked, Snowden said: “Every number in your contacts list, every SMS message, every place that [the phone] has ever been, where the phone is physically located – even if you’ve got GPS disabled, because they can see which wireless access points are near you. Every part of a private life today is found in someone’s phone. We used to say a man’s home is his castle, but today a man’s phone is his castle.”
Snowden’s comments come after the high-profile court case between Apple and the FBI, in which the FBI ordered Apple to provide them with an iOS security backdoor which they could use to access the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter. Apple refused to do so, saying allowing such unprecedented access would present privacy issues for all iOS users, but Snowden maintained that the FBI had the power to hack the iPhone without the tech giant’s help. Sure enough, the FBI swiftly orchestrated a workaround, accessing the iPhone anyway.
Image Credit: Vice / HBO
But despite this pretty terrifying revelation and the numerous leaks over the years detailing various government surveillance programs, society seems largely ambivalent towards these breaches of our privacy. Discussing the reasoning behind this, Snowden continued: “Part of it is the fact that it happened invisibly. If a politician had said we want to watch everyone in the country, people would have been up in arms about it.
“In the wake of of September 11th, Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney and his personal lawyer David Addington conspired with a number of top-level officials in the NSA and other agencies to change not only what they considered to be the legal restraints, but actually the culture of surveillance in the intelligence community. They moved from the exceptional surveillance, to the surveillance of everyone. “
He added: “Technology has changed. Instead of sending people to follow you, we use the devices that you paid for and the services and systems that surround you invisibly every day to watch you on our behalf.
Snowden then went on to discuss metadata, which is what is used to gather information about an individual that is being monitored. “Metadata is the fact that a communication occurred – you called me, when you called me, where you called me from – this information is the same thing that’s produced when a private investigator follows you around all day,” he said, adding: ” They can’t stand close enough to you in every cafe to hear every word you’re saying, but then can be close enough to know when you left your house, the license plate of the car you were driving in, where you went, who you sat with, how long you were there, where you went, where you went after that.”
The documentary is an eye-opening look at our current state of surveillance, and it’s highly recommended that you check it out in full below: