The importance of being Edward

Opener of my long piece in today’s Observer on the implications of the Snowden revelations.

Whatever else 2013 will be remembered for, it will be known as the year in which a courageous whistleblower brought home to us the extent to which the most liberating communications technology since printing has been captured.

Although Edward Snowden’s revelations initially seemed only to document the extent to which the state had exploited internet technology to create a surveillance system of unimaginable comprehensiveness, as the leaks flowed it gradually dawned on us that our naive lust for “free” stuff online had also enabled commercial interests effectively to capture the internet for their own purposes.

And, as if that realisation wasn’t traumatic enough, Snowden’s revelations demonstrated the extent to which the corporate sector – the Googles, Facebooks, Yahoos and Microsofts of this world – have been, knowingly or unknowingly, complicit in spying on us.

What it boils down to is this: we now know for sure that nothing that you do online is immune to surveillance, and the only people who retain any hope of secure communications are geeks who understand cryptography and use open-source software.

This is a big deal by any standards and we are all in Snowden’s debt, for he has sacrificed his prospects of freedom and a normal life so that the rest of us would know what has happened to the technologies on we now depend. We can no longer plead ignorance as an excuse for alarm or inaction.

Read on…

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