NSA spying and the Edward Snowden leaks, a year later

A year after the first published reports revealed massive NSA spying, there’s fallout galore. Tech giants have scrambled to retain their users’ trust. The U.S. has had to deal with damaged relations with its constituents, as well as other countries. There are, of course, calls to rein in the surveillance, including with an effort today called Reset the Net. And in a letter to ACLU members today, Edward Snowden said he is “humbled by our collective successes so far,” but that there’s more work to be done, according to Hillicon Valley.

Snowden is the former government tech employee who leaked documents that continue to show how the National Security Agency has taken advantage of ever-advancing technological advances to collect more information than ever before. The first reports on June 5, 2013, by the Guardian and the Washington Post, revealed the NSA’s mass collection of phone records from American telecom companies, as well as a program called Prism, which supposedly directly collected user information from Internet tech giants such as Google, Facebook and others.

Since then, those giant tech companies have repeatedly denied that they gave the government direct access to their users’ information. Yesterday, the CEOs of Apple, Google, Facebook and others wrote Congress a letter repeating their call to rein in the NSA’s surveillance, as our own Brandon Bailey reported. A Senate committee today is hearing testimony on the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House last month. As we wrote, the giant tech companies had originally supported the bill, but they pulled their support after changes to the wording of the bill seemed to weaken its impact.

Tech companies have also sued to be allowed to be more transparent about what kind of information they’re turning over to the government; some, such as Cisco CEO John Chambers, have spoken directly to President Obama to complain about what’s reportedly going on; they have said their bottom lines are being affected. For the most part, Silicon Valley companies and others have focused their attention on the government and not on Snowden, who leaked the information.

However, Marc Andreessen, one of Silicon Valley’s who’s who, is saying on television and on Twitter that he thinks Snowden is a traitor, even as he acknowledged being bothered by some aspects of U.S. spying:

And this, in response to a question from journalist and academic Dan Gillmor:


So who’s been greatly affected — besides Snowden, who’s living in asylum in Russia — and what’s next? Former NSA Gen. Keith Alexander stepped down in March; he wondered this week whether Snowden is spying for Russia. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who has admitted he lied to Congress about whether the NSA was collecting Americans’ phone records, said a few months ago that he thinks some transparency might have a gone a long way. As for we the Internet users, there are efforts under way to “NSA-proof” websites and emails: Reset the Net today is urging websites to adopt encryption and security tools; Google is open-sourcing end-to-end email encryption; other tech companies have improved their privacy and security practices, although opinions differ on the effectiveness of their efforts.


Photo of Edward Snowden from the Guardian


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  • Harold Hoffman

    I agree that if Snowden didn’t do what he did we would be already in
    communism. Look at the bill they passed, before they voted on it they
    watered it down. That’s because the politicians want to spy on each
    other and they don’t want to stop that access. And I don’t believe that the big boys really care they just got caught. Try using http://LookSeek.com the non tracking leave me alone search engine. We have to change our internet habits.