US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, who revealed details of electronic surveillance by U.S. and British spy services, warned of the dangers posed by a loss of privacy, in a message broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4 television station on Wednesday. Snowden gave a staunch defence of privacy in his first television appearance since claiming asylum in Russia.
The US whistleblower said that modern surveillance was more invasive than any envisioned in the novel “1984” by George Orwell, and warned that children today would grow up without knowing what it means to have an unrecorded or private moment.
“Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us are nothing compared to what we have available today.”
“We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person,” he said.
“A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all,” said Snowden. “They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.”
The challenge now, he believes, is to stress the importance of privacy and urge an end to mass government surveillance.
“The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it,” he said in the pre-recorded segment.
“Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.”
Snowen’s message was broadcast on Channel 4, which has aired a short “alternative” Christmas message every year since 1993. The broadcast is intended as a response to Queen Elizabeth II’s annual Christmas Day broadcast on the rival BBC.
Previous participants have included then president of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2008, and popular cartoon characters Marge and Lisa Simpson in 2004, says ABC News.
Snowden left his NSA post in Hawaii in May and went public with his first revelations from Hong Kong a few weeks later. In June, he left for Russia and stayed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for nearly six weeks until the Kremlin granted him temporary one-year asylum, reports Reuters.
The U.S. has revoked Mr. Snowden’s passport and demanded he be sent home to face charges for stealing secrets after he leaked information about the National Security Agency’s extensive electronic surveillance programs.
On Tuesday, Snowden – who disclosed thousands of confidential documents – said in an interview published in the Washington Post that he had achieved what he set out to do.
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said.
His leaks have deeply embarrassed president Barack Obama’s administration by revealing the massive scale of America’s spying efforts, including on the country’s own allies such as German chancellor Angela Merkel.