2013 was an eventful year for the IT security industry. With several data breaches making the headlines, victimized companies such as Snapchat and Target helped to keep the topic of IT security top of mind for the general public. While these data breaches were harmful to those effected, the one man who can be accredited with catapulting the topic of IT security from niche interest to public interest is Edward Snowden.
This former CIA employee and NSA contractor is responsible for disclosing classified documents that revealed global surveillance programs being operated by the United States government. Consequently, the U.S. Justice department charged Snowden with espionage and revoked his passport. Since then, Snowden has been granted asylum by the Russian government.
On March 10, 2014, Edward Snowden made a rare, televised appearance from his refuge in Moscow to address the technology conference at SXSW. Snowden urged SXSW attendees to hold the U.S. government accountable and stop the surveillance of the American people.
Behind the shield of the constitution Snowden claims to be striving to protect, he claimed he would repeat his actions, if offered the opportunity, and encouraged his listeners to take action. While security companies are familiar with encryption, Snowden advised the average web-user to make use of these privacy tools. He went on to state that the difference between government and private company surveillance is the government’s ability to remove the rights of the individuals.
Snowden’s address was received well by the tech industry at SXSW – software entrepreneur Michael Chalcraft was quoted saying, “I think it was right on. There’s always a balance between what the government should know about us and what we would expect to be private. If we're not constantly protecting that privacy, then we give it up."
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