Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence contractor who has been leaking information about government data collection programs, has said before a debate on state surveillance that entire populations, rather than just individuals, now live under constant surveillance.
Snowden, who appeared via video link at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall on Friday during a semi-annual Munk debate that state surveillance today is a euphemism for mass surveillance.
“It’s no longer based on the traditional practice of targeted taps based on some individual suspicion of wrongdoing,” Snowden said in the brief video. “It covers phone calls, emails, texts, search history, what you buy, who your friends are, where you go, who you love.”
The video was screened as two of the debaters former US National Security Administration director General Michael Hayden and well-known civil liberties lawyer and Harvard law professor Alan M. Dershowitz argued in favor of the debate statement: “Be it resolved state surveillance is a legitimate defence of our freedoms.”
In opposition were Glenn Greenwald, the journalist whose work based on the Snowden leaks won a Pulitzer Prize last month, and Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of social media website reddit.
The Snowden documents, first leaked last June, revealed that the US government has programs in place to spy on hundreds of millions of people’s emails, social networking posts, online chat histories, browsing histories, phone records, phone calls and texts. “Nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet,” in the words of one leaked document.