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Edward Snowden Plans to Work on Privacy Tech

The NSA leaker wants like-minded hackers to join him in his effort to make everyday tech tools more secure.

Liz Gannes / Re/code

NSA leaker Edward Snowden says he plans to work on technology to preserve personal data privacy and called on programmers to join his efforts.

Speaking via a Google Hangout at the Hackers on Planet Earth Conference in New York, Snowden repeated a call he’s made before for the tech industry to embed more security and privacy-protecting technology into everyday tech products.

But today he hinted, without providing any further details, that he’s going to be doing some of that work himself. He also wants like-minded hackers to work with him in some capacity.

“We the people — you the people, you in this room right now — have both the means and the capability to help build a better future by encoding our rights into the programs and protocols upon which we rely every day,” he said. “And that’s what a lot of my future work is going to be involved in, and I hope you’ll join me … in making that a reality.”

Earlier in his remarks he heaped praise upon John Napier Tye, who described, in an op-ed for the Washington Post, how a Reagan-era presidential executive order — number 12333 — has been used as the legal justification for much of the government’s collecting of information on the communications of Americans.

Appearing via a Google Hangout from Russia where he’s been living under asylum, he defended his actions in leaking the trove of documents he took while working as a contractor for the NSA.

“If we’re going to have a democracy and an enlightened citizenry, if we’re going to provide the consent of the governed, we have to know what is going on, we have to know the broad outlines of a policy and we can’t have the government shut us out from every action that they’re doing,” Snowden said. “We have a right as Americans and as members of the global community to know the broad outlines of government policies that significantly impact on our lives.” Americans generally have had very little idea of how wide a net the government was casting for their information, he said.

The session was notable also for the presence of Daniel Ellsberg, the famous leaker of The Pentagon Papers. Baby boomers and history majors will know that these were the classified history of U.S. operations in Vietnam leaked to newspapers in 1971. Among other things, they demonstrated to Americans that the government had consistently lied to the public and to Congress about American involvement in the war in that country. It also led to a watershed Supreme Court case concerning the freedom of the press.

The video of the session, embedded below, is about 90 minutes long. It’s interesting, regardless of your opinion on whether Snowden is a good guy or a bad guy.

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