On July 13th this year, Edward Snowden gave a keynote speech in ORGCON, the UK’s largest human and digital rights conference. During his speech, he touched on the state of surveillance in the world in the past, present and what impact it will have on the future. He also touches on how his personal story on surveillance was not about surveillance or politics, it was a democratic story.

Firstly, Snowden talks about what is happening with surveillance and how his story links to it. He says that he wanted to understand what the common people understood about laws and capabilities of the government. This is where he says that “People think that 2013 as a surveillance story, what it was a democracy story”. This is referring to when he revealed that the US government had the capabilities and were looking at people’s information, breaking their right to privacy. It is later said that even though it is a democratic government, it is always about “mission first”, meaning that the government does not consult with the public which turns it into a more bureaucratic state. This has turned their citizens from masters of the government to being subjects of them. This has led to governments being able to do automated surveillance, through websites, messages or phone calls, on targeted groups rather than doing manual work, such as teams on the ground spying on them. Even more terrifying is that officers do not need to have warrants to have permission to search a person, they can warrant it themselves based on suspicion and not cause as it is too slow to get an official warrant. This can be through the passive collection of private emails coming in and out of the country.

Since 2013, the status quo of this has changed, through pressure from companies, and everything has become more encrypted, so the government has to work harder to complete their mission so that people’s privacy rights are protected. On the other hand, to do this, messages between people have to be between people and the service provider and it keeps a copy of it. He also states that the US has structured laws so that they can be trusted and will not scrutinise foreign countries or courts unless they are wrong or criminal. This can only happen under executive order but can be changed at any point, even under secrecy.

Presently, governments are caring less about the rights of their citizens but more about the power that they hold over them. Even more shockingly, these are being used to target people such as journalists, immigrants and political dissidents, which can be summed up as minorities, rather than using surveillance for protecting public security. It is now more about state secure rather than public secure. He concludes by saying that life is hard now and that surveillance is that challenge that this generation is facing. However, he does say that with the fight against the use of unauthorised surveillance by the government, it will get better for the future.

In my opinion, I believe what Edward Snowden has been saying during his keynote speech. It is true that surveillance, especially by the government, is a challenge that we face and is a WICKED PROBLEM that is hard to solve, especially during this generation. This touches on the topics of security, digital rights, privacy and policies and standards. At present, technology is a weapon that governments are using against its people to gain power and stability which can be seen in the US or China.

In conclusion, surveillance is a problem that is there and is used against everyday people but groups and activists are fighting against it so that the future has better rights.

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