'That System Is Being Used Against You': Edward Snowden Makes the Case for Internet Privacy. Is He Right?

Online companies might not be as nefarious as you think.


I love my digital devices, but people keep telling me to worry more about my privacy.

"Encrypt your emails!" "Drop Google and use search engines like DuckDuckGo that don't track us!"

I probably should. But I don't. I'm lazy, and I like that web companies know me and show me things I'm interested in. I like that they display "restaurants near me."

"You do not understand the way that that system is being used against you," says whistleblower Edward Snowden in my new video. Snowden is in exile in Russia because he revealed how the NSA spied on us and lied about it. He says I should care more about what companies like Google and Facebook know. But why?

"I figure that teenage boy across the street could be picking up stuff I send," I say. "The cork's out of the bottle! What difference does it make (if media companies have it)?"

Snowden replies, "They're trying to shape… what you believe."

I don't feel very threatened. Amazon and Facebook want my money, and to get my money in a free market, a company must give me what I want. That's a good thing.

"When we talk about the free market," says Snowden, "We presume… open competition… I don't believe this."

He may be right. Perhaps big internet companies are now monopolies, so dominant that we can't leave them if we don't like what they do. But the "experts" also called IBM, AOL and Myspace monopolies, "immune to competition." Whoops.

Still, today's social media companies are powerful enough to do real damage.

"Facebook ran their own psychological studies on the current population to see if they could make you angry," says Snowden. They succeeded!

Snowden fears what else companies will do with that power. "It is going to be for their advantage. It is going to be to shape laws; it is going to be to shape elections."

Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google say they won't do that, although there's evidence they already have; Facebook hid the New York Post's reporting on Hunter Biden.

The companies also promise to protect our privacy. They say they don't just give information to the government. But they do. Our government routinely forces them to turn it over.

"Why is it so much worse that our government has it?" I ask Snowden.

"Google can sell you a different pair of shoes on the basis of what it knows about you… but they can't put you in jail," he replies. "They can't bomb you. The government can."

It is creepy that former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Snowden points out that this suggests "that we should have to constrain our intellectual curiosity… because we could someday be judged on it…(But) who decides what is normal, what's acceptable…?! In a free society, we are allowed to be different."

Good point.

Snowden advises people to encrypt their phones.

"Your phone tries to reach this other person, wherever they are in the world. It has to go through the Starbucks that you're sitting at, through an internet service provider, through a data center. At any one of these points, anybody sitting on that line can snatch a copy of the conversation."

WhatsApp won customers by offering encryption that prevents that. "An encrypted message cannot be unlocked without a mathematical key," explains Snowden. "That defeats mass surveillance."

But then Facebook bought WhatsApp, and later Facebook announced it will share WhatsApp data. Customers fled.

"Fewer and fewer people use plain voice (and) plain SMS," says Snowden. "Now they're using encrypted messages like the Signal messenger."

That makes it harder for government, and companies, to learn so much about us.

"Everywhere you go, everything you do, everyone you interact with and everything you are interested in is being collected and recorded and analyzed and assessed. We don't know how that is being applied yet, but we do know once they have this information, we can't take it back from them."

DuckDuckGo, anyone?


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  1. Welcome to communist America.

    The shithole where 1a doesn’t exist because you’re guilty and can never be proven innocent as the truth has been canceled.

    1. That and public corporations are given public bandwith to operate their businesses. Then they use those public airwaves against Americans.

      Its a nefarious work around of constitutional protections and needs to be woodchipped immediately.

      Corporations are creations of the state and should be forced in their charters to not give any money to politicians. If you want to be a political business, be a partnership or sole propritorship. Corporations have no fiduciary duty to their shareholders anymore under threat of legal action and get government bailouts for mismanagement.

      1. ^THIS...
        "get government bailouts for mismanagement"
        "crony socialism" -- end the socialism, end the crony.

  2. Any odds on whether Biden/Harris pardon Snowden? I'm thinking he will be in a Russia for a long, long time.

    1. The CIA and the FBI helped install those two, there's no way in hell they'd let them even think of pardoning Snowden.

      1. This.

      2. The CIA and FBI would think of pardoning Snowden, but only because he might travel somewhere they could get to him and tuck him in to sleep with the fishes.

  3. "When we talk about the free market," says Snowden, "We presume… open competition… I don't believe this."

    So Snowden is going Trumpy mc alt-right.

    1. Russian stooges gonna Russian stooge. If Snowden were alive in revolutionary times, he probably would've owned slaves too.

      1. If you were white and born in Virginia in 1750 you probably would have to. I bet if you were born in 1940 in Wats, CA you probably would have grown up hating the white dude. Just men of their times.

        1. If you were white and born in Virginia in 1750 chances are you didn't have slaves. A very small percentage of colonists could afford slaves

          1. 3% of southern landowners. That is less than a percent of southern people, as most didn’t own land or were chicks.

            Slaveholders were a tiny minority.

    2. After working for the NSA; He probably knows a lot more than he's even made public.

      1. He didn’t work for the nsa. He worked for a contractor of the nsa.

  4. I’ve used Google and Facebook to advertize controversial positions in medicine and politics. And they let me do it for years. So I am grateful to them for that. It’s a vindication of free speech (though I have been censored and banned several times as well for various invalid reasons).

    On the other hand, preceding the election Facebook showed targeted people disgusting images of insects under their “You might like” posts. The goal was to get Trump supporters to abandon the site. But I don’t really blame them, I blame the users who made cowardly and pathetic excuses for not fighting the socialists as will now be demonstrated:

  5. Amazon and Facebook want my money, and to get my money in a free market, a company must give me what I want.

    But what if there's stuff out there that you would want if you only knew it existed, but Amazon and Facebook are keeping you from finding out it exists? Is a free market one where you're allowed a choice of Coke or Pepsi without knowing that RC Cola, Fanta, Shasta, Sam's Club or DietRite exist?

    1. Is a free market one where you’re allowed a choice of Coke or Pepsi without knowing that RC Cola, Fanta, Shasta, Sam’s Club or DietRite exist?

      No whiskey or hunting rifles for sale on Amazon. It's less of a competitive free market than Sears under prohibition.

  6. In 2021, can we really be private in electronic communications?

    With Signal, you supposedly have encrypted communications that cannot be broken into and read. Is that true?

    If you really wanted to 'go dark', what tools would you use?

    1. The rubber hose crypto attack always works.

      That's the one where they beat you with a rubber hose until you decrypt your communications.

      Short of that, Signal is pretty good.

    2. "If you really wanted to ‘go dark’, what tools would you use?"

      Face to face conversations in a room swept for electronic surveillance and visually and aurally isolated.

      Welcome to the revolution.

  7. "In 2021, can we really be private in electronic communications?"

    Can we read the electronic communications of those in the White House or FBI? Or Facebook or Google, for that matter? If we succeed in doing so, we'll be convicted of "hacking". Somebody has privacy.

    1. I guess my point is....I would like that privacy. What tools are available today that will give me the privacy I am looking for?

      Text communications: Signal?
      Email: Proteon?
      Browser: Brave? Duck Duck Go?
      Navigation: ???

      1. Privacy, or electronic communications. Pick one and only one.

        1. There have to be alternatives, LTBF. It cannot be either/or.

        2. This^

          Comcast's CEO plays golf regularly with Obama. Most of the head officers were appointed by Obama in 2009. Comcast is NOT a private company regardless of how it is listed.

          It does not need nor care about your money. Comcast is federally subsidized by the feds and is currently after 3.4Billion in Covid money. This is why customer service sucks so badly. You aren't the customer. The feds are.

          If the feds want your data they don't need a subpoena. The contract makes your data theirs and if you sign it they will claim that you have no right whatsoever to sue for any reason ever even after you drop their services. Even if their truck runs your kid over.

          If you do business with Comcast you are compromised.


          Comcast is the largest internet service provider in the US and Great Britain.

          1. Comcast is the largest internet service provider in the US and Great Britain.

            Did Comcast deplatform Jim Jones? Not defending Jones, it's more of a litmus test.

        3. Privacy, or *networked* electronic communications. Pick one and only one.

          You can have privacy via electronic communications but, as Ben said, "Three can keep a secret, if two are dead."

      2. Both Signal and Proton are presumptively secure from end to end. Both are vulnerable to endpoint compromise (at either endpoint).

        DuckDuckGo, for most purposes, is no more secure than Chrome or Firefox; the operative difference is that their portal doesn't retain the metadata.

        Brave appears to be a browser that has a built-in ad blocker and a Tor option. Tor is an effective (but not perfectly effective) way to hide communications, including origin and destination metadata. It also is rather slow due to the large number of encryption/decryption operations that keep it secure and the fact that quite a few of the nodes don't match the Internet backbone for capacity.

        A virtual private network can hide communications fairly effectively as well, especially one you and your counterpart(s) set up yourselves, although that is not exactly a novice task and is at best marginally better than using HTTPS in a browser. All of these are vulnerable to endpoint compromise and unlikely to get in the way of law enforcement agencies armed with a warrant or serious hackers.

        OpenPGP (mainly for email) is a bit of work to set up, and has the same general vulnerabilities. It has the advantage that it is easy to separate encryption from decryption and do them on separate devices that never connect to the Internet. If the detached computers are carefully set up and isolation is maintained, it nearly eliminates the threat of network based compromise. Those who would intercept the plain text messages still might gain direct physical access to the isolated computer or, as another comment noted, to your person or that of your counterpart.

  8. Facebook hid the New York Post's reporting on Hunter Biden.

    So did Reason.

    1. Ahh, but Reason writers didn't do it for political reasons. They did it so they could keep getting invited to the cool parties.

      1. Are we sure about that, though?

  9. Snowden and Assange should be pardoned and also venerated by freedom loving citizens of the world.

  10. Snowden is a hero. But he is not being taken seriously. Strange, you'd think folks who believe that they are on the left side if the IQ distribution curve would be smart enough to see how they were manipulated in the 2020 election. Either they can't see it, or they willfully accept it. Scary either way.

    Break up Alphabet/Google and Facebook already.

    1. Strange, you’d think folks who believe that they are on the left side if the IQ distribution curve

      I think the people on the left side of the curve don't understand what it means to be on the left side of the curve. Still very apropos.

    2. Folks on the left side of the curve should not be expected to understand much of anything.

  11. States need to start nullifying federal over-reach.

    1. I am foreseeing a lot of that in the very near future. 2A issues will be a bellwether of these concerns; that is because government policy exerts a very direct and discernable impact on gun owners; but I can see it expanding to a number of areas of overreach, including mandates addressing fossil fuels, and given that the government has seen fit to extend its power in response to COVID, that can certainly include mandatory mask requirements and lock downs.

    2. The first time they tried that, when there was an attempt to nullify the 'tariff of abominations,' it led to civil war.

      1. States have done pretty well with cannabis legalization without starting a civil war. They should start doing the same with gun laws if the feds go too far.

  12. It's not Facebook and Google that are the problem.
    It's there are too many stupid people in America/the World. THAT is the problem.
    40 years ago - no one cared or heard what idiots thought.
    Now, any moron can make a point online.
    No one - and I mean NO ONE - under 90 IQ should be allowed to vote.

    1. More and more I can't escape the conclusion that the Internet, and particularly social media, has ruined everything.

      1. I mean, just look at how much time I waste here arguing and joking with a bunch of weirdo assholes when I should be working. And I'm basically a luddite compared to most people these days.

  13. "Google can sell you a different pair of shoes on the basis of what it knows about you… but they can't put you in jail," [Snowden] replies. "They can't bomb you. The government can."

    That was my initial reaction back in 2013 (and earlier, since a lot of what he reported was reasonably well known - to the Congressional intelligence committees and also to those who had been paying attention over the years since 9/11/2001 or earlier. He gave us a lot of detail that hadn't been public before, but it was public that the government spied, and any fool could have figured that some "US persons" would have communications intercepted even when the interception target was foreign. And anyone who had read a spy novel or two, or paid attention to the general news, could have figured that Angela Merkel and Dilma Roussef, along with many other foreign government officials, would be targeted, not to mention fill in the blanks and conclude that quite a number of US official are targets of other nations' intelligence services. The notion that gentlemen don't read other people's mail (or eavedrop on their calls) has been dead for about a hundred years.

    But I digress. Yes, unlike Google and Facebook, the government can jail you, possibly worse. But does anyone honestly think they need communication surveillance to do it? Does anyone even think Snowden honestly believes it?

  14. Now some "woke" busybody can check your Twitter account to see if they can find something you said 10 years ago that could be interpreted as "racist" and get you fired from your job.

  15. Eric Schmidt can eat my ass! Privacy is vital to the evolution of society.

    What if
    - the anti-suffragettes were kept abreast of every one of Susan B Anthony's movements,
    - pro-slavery government has intimate details of Freddrick Douglass activities and acquaintances,
    - anti-miscegenation Virginia knew the moment Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving had fallen in love with each other?

    The list goes on (e.g. American Revolution, French Resistance, Stonewall, etc.), but without privacy, society suffers oppression, not just by government, but by the will of the majority.

  16. You don't have to value privacy, but if you do, that means you don't have to explain why you value it to some corporation before you deserve to have it.

    They're going to pry into us as intimately as they are allowed to. It's just rational market behavior.

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