National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and members of the American Civil Liberties Union recently took questions from Reddit users during an Ask Me Anything question and answer session. They discussed mass surveillance, internet security, and other issues relating to safety online. You can find the entire thread on Reddit, but we combed through to find the best answers Snowden gave.
1. What is Snowden’s best source of information on surveillance?
Voodoo_zero asked, “If you had one go-to source of information to use to convince people that mass surveillance is a problem, what would it be?” Snowden responded, “history.” While some users scoffed at his answer, it only takes a look back at the history books to see what he means.
Next: Snowden also recommends calling your elected officials in this next case.
2. Can the average person actually effect change?
StaticUnion asked, “What can the average citizen do to effect change?” Snowden responded that “collective action is really one of our strongest moves. You need to think about talking to friends and family not just as a conversation topic, but a force multiplier.” He additionally explained that the first step to solving the problem lies in simply caring about it. Next, citizens should help their friends and family understand it, too.
“It’s not the only tool in our kit, as technology is increasingly promising new ways to entirely remove from governments the ability to violate certain rights when they prove to be poor stewards of them,” Snowden added. “But it should always be our first.”
Next: This user wanted to know about increased internet monitoring.
3. What about Big Brother watching?
Liliannette asked how the average citizen can protect themselves against government surveillance online, and Snowden replied that the question is “honestly too big for one comment to answer.” Because everyone uses their devices slightly differently, the whistleblower did not have any specific tips. He did point users toward a new guide by The Citizen Lab. “For most people, this is where you need to start,” he explained. “Password managers (unique passwords), end-to-end encryption, the Tor Browser, and Signal,” will all help, too.
Next: This user got deep and a little disturbing with his question.
4. What is the most disturbing thing the government can do?
Reddit user David_Bondra asked Snowden and the ACLU redditors, “What do y’all think is the most disturbing thing the NSA has the capability of doing in regards to surveillance?” Snowden said that’s impossible to say, since the issue encompasses so many moving parts. “I think the scariest thing to consider is that it is, in the opinion of the Congress … the NSA can ‘ingest’ into its surveillance systems without a warrant any communication that is only ‘one end domestic.” In other words, if private citizens’ data comes up as a result of an agent’s query, the NSA and FBI can legally search it at any time, without a warrant. “Although there have been efforts by the House of Representatives to reform this abuse, the bill Congressional leaders are trying to sneak through right now intentionally leaves it open for continued exploitation,” Snowden added.
Next: Did they really expect Snowden to answer this question?
5. If he told you, he’d have to kill you
User kngsxvigil asked Snowden, “Are you still in the employ of the Central Intelligence Agency?” Snowden coyly replied, If I said no, would you believe me? What about yes?” You sneaky son of a gun, Snowden.
Next: We all want to know the answer to this next one.
6. But what about aliens?
Reddit user drhex2c asked Snowden, “Can you comment on whether you ever came across any significant UFO/alien information from anything you’ve ever seen/heard in your time working with gov related agencies?” They clarified that significant means more than fuzzy UFO photos or vague military reports. Snowden scoffed at this one. “C’mon, guys. If I had found something about UFOs, you better believe the journalists would’ve run it,” he said.
Next: This user asked the question on everyone’s mind.
7. When do we stop calling and start fighting?
BagelmanB asked the whistleblower, “Will there ever be a point where you will advocate for revolution against this oppressive government instead of reform?” Snowden’s response sounded typical of the activist. “When reform becomes impossible, revolution becomes inevitable.”
Next: During the AMA, Snowden also fielded questions about his nerd habits.
8. What kind of genius is Snowden, exactly?
Taking a break from surveillance chat, Isuredolovemilk asked, “How good are you really with a rubiks cube?” Snowden confessed that only his mom thinks he’s great at them. “I’ve only broken one-minute solves maybe twice, and if we’re being honest, that was luck,” he said. “Normally I’m in the 1-3 minute range.” It’s the fact we all wanted to know.
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