Former federal contractor Edward Snowden made a rare appearance via videoconference on Monday in Austin, where the controversial NSA whistleblower addressed an audience at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival to talk about cybersecurity and government surveillance.
He called on the technology community to improve the security of its products and services, and to create encryption tools that are user-friendly. He also attacked every inch of U.S. national security, saying the U.S. Constitution is under attack.
"We're monitoring everybody's communications instead of suspects' communications," said Snowden.
An audience of thousands watched the stuttering video stream from Russia, where the former NSA contractor was given asylum and is evading felony charges in America for leaking NSA secrets and classified documents to the media about U.S. data collection programs.
"When we think about what's happened with the NSA in the last decade, this post-9/11 era, the result has been an adversarial interent, sort of a global free fire zone for governments, which is nothing that we ever asked for," said Snowden. "It's not what we want. It's something we need to protect against."
Snowden said he blew the whistle because Americans should know about the secret surveillance being carried out in their name by the NSA.
"They're setting fire to the future of the internet," he said. "And the people who are in this room now, you guys are all the firefighters. And we need you to help us fix this."
Snowden said the answer to balancing cyber security with privacy doesn't come from public policy, but from developers to improve the security of their products and services, and to create encryption tools that are user-friendly.
"South by Southwest, and the technology community, the people who are in the room in Austin right now, they're the folks who can really fix things," he said.
Snowden is not without his critics – the White House and many lawmakers are defending the NSA program as an effective way to prevent terrorist attacks.
But others are pushing to reopen the Congressional debate over the post-9/11 Patriot Act, which made this kind of surveillance possible.
KDFW FOX 4
Main Station Directory:
Didn't find what you were looking for?