CONTROL: In his memoir, Edward Snowden reveals how he helped build the mass surveillance system and what his motivations were to bring it down
Francesca Borri
Italian journalist and writer. She contributes regularly to Modern Times Review.
Published date: September 30, 2019
Permanent Record
Author: Edward Snowden
Henry Holt & Company,

What’s the point of a smart fridge? Of a fridge connected to WiFi, and thus to your entire home – your oven, your hoover, your doorbell. It can be a music player too or a phone. Is it really just to warn that your milk is about to expire?

We feel more and more in command by the day, and yet that smart fridge doesn’t communicate to us. Rather, it communicates about us. We are not in control. We are under control.

The world’s most wanted

When he fully grasped this, Edward Snowden (36), a software developer for the US’ National Security Agency (NSA), a mastermind of its mass surveillance programs, told all of it to the Guardian: turning into the world’s most wanted man.

Snowden is now at large. Charged with espionage. He might, even, serve a life sentence, and yet, he didn’t break the law. Quite the opposite. He’s been abiding by it more than most: the Constitution upon which, on the first day of his new job, he swore to defend from all its enemies, external and internal. As working for the government doesn’t mean working for the public, Snowden now acknowledges this in is his new memoir: «And so today I spend my time trying to protect people from what I once was».

Maps of our lives

It wasn’t a new story, actually. A senior CIA analyst had already revealed that the United States could track any communication, not only of specific subjects, and for specific concerns, but of all, indefinitely. Edward Snowden, indeed, had made this all possible by finding a way to decrease data size, in turn increasing storage space for where to index. Still, no one had really realized what this meant: «because we think of mass surveillance in terms of contents. While it is about metadata, rather than data», Snowden says. That is, information derived from other information. «In a phone call, for example, metadata include the call’s day and time, its length, the number you called and the number you called from. And their localization. And they tell much more than your actual conversation. Because together with all others», our credit cards, Facebook pages, smart fridges, «in the end they outline a map of our life». To too many, he says, this sounds like a minor issue. A privacy issue. They reply that they have nothing to hide: «It’s like saying that you don’t care about freedom of expression because you have nothing to say».

We are not in control. We are under control.

Now, not only, can you collect …

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