Edward Snowden is perhaps the most notorious whistleblower in modern American history, exposing the government’s extensive reach with surveillance on domestic citizens and international world leaders. But being in exile in Russia has not kept Snowden from reaching a mass-audience, which he did this week at a conference for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
But it was not Edward Snowden’s attendance via video at the MIT conference that has sent shockwaves throughout the technology sector, but rather what he has announced he is currently doing to help combat government snooping on cell phones, according to the New York Times.
— Cory Doctorow (@doctorow) July 21, 2016
As some people may already know, Edward Snowden is a board member on the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which is a nonprofit group that works hard to maintain the constitutional amendment that allows for the free press in all 50 American states and around the world. One of the core issues that the FPF faces these days is the extent of the government’s reach in the public sector, which also includes reporters who harbor confidential informants to maintain a steady flow of raw information to the public.
The reason Edward Snowden is in exile in Russia is because he exposed the massive overreach the NSA, and other intelligence organizations, have under the Patriot Act that was signed into law by former President George W. Bush. It can be assumed that the reason for Edward Snowden’s actions was to fight the law, which seems to be a massive intrusion of privacy by the government, and to build support for reform of the law which puts many Americans at risk.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) July 21, 2016
Now, Edward Snowden has announced that he will be partnering with Andrew Huang to develop an iPhone that protects journalists from government intrusion. This modified version of the iPhone could essentially alert a user that their phone is being spied on.
For those who do not know Edward Snowden’s partner on this mission, Andrew Huang is an MIT alum who studied electrical engineering at the prestigious school. He is also well known as a computer hacker that goes by the name of Bunnie.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) July 20, 2016
Edward Snowden and Andrew Huang are enduring this initiative as a way to help keep journalists safe, not just from the American government, but from all governments as well. One good example of this, as Edward Snowden noted in his speech, was an attack in Syria that left an American journalist, Marie Colvin, dead while she was reporting for a London media group.
“The radio frequency emissions of her communications that she used to file those news reports were intercepted by the Syrian Army,” Edward Snowden said at the conference.
— CNN (@CNN) July 21, 2016
When communications are used to send reports in war zones, they can easily be intercepted by local governments or extremist groups and used to reveal the location of the report, which seemed to be the case with Colvin, as cited by Edward Snowden.
Private communications is something that Edward Snowden has fought to maintain for many years now, even before he went into exile after blowing the whistle on the NSA. But they are also even more critical for journalists who are risking their lives in war zones to bring the world the news of what is really going on. Syria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be in right now. But there are many other places that journalists travel that are equally dangerous, and at different times, they can be even more deadly for journalists who transmit reports from the location of the events.
Although Edward Snowden and Andrew Huang are working to get the technology right for smartphones to alert their owners if a third party is intercepting their data, it is unclear at this time when it will be available.
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