Lawmakers are currently in the process of cracking down on big tech companies like Facebook and Google over violations pertaining to user data and personal privacy. It is clear that personal privacy is becoming something that is increasingly more difficult to protect as the years progress. To that end, it’s encouraging to see the government beginning to hold these companies accountable for how they treat individual user data. However, are those same lawmakers who are seemingly looking out for user privacy just hypocrites? At the same time that tech giants are being made to be held more accountable, other sectors of government have been putting pressure on these companies to provide them with a backdoor into their data encryption models to access user information should they need it. Famous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is now speaking out to warn people that their privacy is more at risk than ever.
Edward Snowden spoke out virtually at a press conference that launched Global Encryption Day. The day is meant to serve as a platform through which to spread awareness about the importance of companies maintaining strong end-to-end encryption for user data. Snowden asserted that “Privacy is Power.” He called it “…an insulating layer that allowed those of us who wield very little power in society, because we are individuals, to think and act and associate freely.”
However, according to CNBC, governments in countries such as the United States, Europe, Australia, Russia, and China are asking for backdoors because they are fearful that advancing technology will prevent them from adequately conducting high-profile investigations for things like terrorism. Apple, for instance, has repeatedly bumped heads with the FBI for refusing to allow them access to encrypted data. Edward Snowden warned that some companies could be beginning to bend to the government’s will. Even Apple came under fire recently for skepticism revolving around the true intentions behind their CSAM plan, which was ultimately delayed due to the amount of backlash Apple incurred because of it.
Edward Snowden continued to explain in his speech that the reasons that many of these tech giants will cave to meet government demands are not because they believe that it would be the right thing to do, but because it would serve to better suit their own interests. “They’re not socially minded. They don’t care. They care about their interests,” said Snowden
It still remains to be seen how the murky waters surrounding individual privacy, big tech, and government overreach will affect users and their personal information. Especially because much of the information currently circulating regarding the matter is exceedingly contradictory. For instance, Edward Snowden said that “Groups like Facebook want to have as much information as possible. So now they’re limiting where they’ll use end-to-end encryption.” This could be true considering they are currently being investigated for egregiously violating user privacy. At the same time, Facebook has released statements about its plan to incorporate end-to-end encryption into all of its messaging apps.
With his warnings, Edward Snowden has truly brought to light something that individuals should seek to educate themselves on in order to take what they feel are the necessary steps to best protect their own privacy. However, with the many questions that go along with traversing this new uncharted digital landscape combined with the contradicting efforts of both governments and the tech giants, it will likely be some time before any definitive resolutions regarding user privacy and the continuing implementation of end-to-end encryption are reached.