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As Edward Snowden completes a decade in exile since his revelation of the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) and its British counterpart GCHQ’s spying on American citizens in 2013, he’s now warned that modern-day surveillance makes the one he uncovered look like “child’s play”.
In an interview on the 10th anniversary of his revelation that shook the world and sent him into exile in Russia, Snowden said that he had no regrets for what he did 10 years ago, instead citing positive changes that the leaks brought about, including industry-wide end-to-end encryption, something that was a “pipe dream in 2013 when the story broke”.
Snowden’s revelations were by no means insignificant. This was the first time the world had gained any insight into the US federal agencies’ far-reaching grasp on American citizens’ daily life. Thousands of documents revealing American spying programs were revealed in the coming days, the impact of which as now led us to privacy-enabling technologies and at least some transparency and reforms in not only American spying but spying efforts across the world.
That said, while public awareness about mass surveillance has significantly increased in the last decade, there is still a lot of work to do. Snowden himself has expressed concerns about modern technologies that eat away a lot of efforts that have been made in the name of providing internet privacy to the common people, including the dangers posed by governments and big data companies. A growing number of surveillance cameras, AI, and commercially available spyware like Pegasus and its use on dissidents and journalists also make Snowden’s list of concerns.
Intelligence agencies from both the US and the UK agree that the privacy debate has been helped by the case Snowden helped in making but still are bitter about the ‘damage’ his whistleblowing caused to their capabilities. Another complaint they have is that Snowden’s leaks paint NSA and GCHQ as the sole offenders, completely ignoring what China and Russia were doing at the time.
While Snowden himself believes that spying agencies’ capabilities have been hurt by his actions, he doesn’t think he caused any damage per se, considering how none of the agencies crying out ever showed any evidence. As for China and Russia, Snowden says that no one at the time thought they were angels either.
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