On Monday, several thousand people showed up or tuned in to watch Edward Snowden speak at SXSW Interactive, the giant tech festival held each year in Austin, Texas. The event was Snowden’s second live talk since he revealed himself as the source of a string of news stories about government surveillance programs. Speaking to ACLU attorney Ben Wizner and ACLU chief technologist, Chris Soghoian, Snowden trumpeted transparency, renewed his call for increased oversight, and encouraged the use of encryption tools by the public and private corporations:
“The bottom line I have repeated again and again is that encryption does work. We need to think of encryption not as this sort of arcane black art. What it is is a sort of a basic protection, it is a defense against the dark arts for the digital realm. This is something we all need to be not only implementing but actively researching and improving on an academic level.”
Chris Soghoian added in support:
“Encryption makes bulk surveillance too expensive. Really the goal here isn’t to blind the NSA, the goal isn’t to stop the government from going after legitimate surveillance targets. The goal here is to make it so that they cannot spy on innocent people because they can’t. Right now so many of our communications—our telephone calls, our text messages, our emails, our instant messages—are just there for the taking. And if we start using encrypted communication services, suddenly it becomes too expensive for the NSA to spy on everyone.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Last week, Access launched the “Encrypt All the Things” campaign. Why? Because in the wake of the continued disclosures regarding government mass surveillance, the majority of the reform conversation has revolved around the need for increased transparency. And of course, transparency is great! But many of these same disclosures also highlight the ease by which unauthorized actors can access large amounts of personal information without any judicial process or oversight.
It’s time to expand the public discourse. It’s time to talk about how to properly secure data and defend privacy.
Robust encryption is the next step toward protecting our networks and data from unauthorized surveillance. The centerpiece of the Encrypt All the Things campaign is the “Data Security Action Plan,” seven security-enhancing steps that every internet platform should take to increase the level of protection for individual information sent and stored on the internet. These protections will help prevent unauthorized access, and move state actors like the NSA and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies toward using proper, legal channels to obtain personal information.
The so-called “DSAP7” has public support from companies like Twitter, DuckDuckGo, and KeepSafe, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Open Technology Institute, and other civil society groups. Individuals can join in support of the project at www.encryptallthethings.net, and companies can be added to the website throughout 2014 by contacting Access.