Former CIA employee, former United States collaborator, he disclosed major NSA controversial documents. Mass surveillance was, therefore, proven to happen, raising thus a brand-new debate. Edward Snowden, 30 years old at the time, is considered one of the first whistleblower. Living in Moscow since 2013, Russia being the only country giving him effective asylum, he was on November the 2nd invited by the media association at McGill to give a videoconference live talk.
Beyond the incredibly huge queue made of impatient Snowden's fans, beyond the completely unorganized (or overwhelmed) staff and security service, and beyond the feeling of being a teenager at some Justin Bieber's concert, the live talk Edward Snowden gave at McGill on November 2nd was worth waiting for.
If he did not reveal any breaking news, he repeated his warnings about global mass surveillance and showed, once again, that the most used technological hubs actually collect an impressive amount of data. The users never consciously agree on giving their information, but it is impossible for them to access the platforms if they refuse to agree on the website policy. This strain between privacy and State safety – as this is the reason the USA pulled up as a justification to the controversial data collect in question – is a crucial issue we all need to consider. Answering several students questions, he came up with optimistic advices and precious warnings.
Snowden's speech eventually found an undeniable echo in the Canadian news, in relation with both the project C-51 and the recent revelations of journalists being spied on by the Montreal police. If we, as students, have the power to initiate an in-depth reflection about what privacy we are ready to give up in so-called emergency times, it is everyone's business to be aware of what are the risks of such disclosure on our daily lives. If no one can really influence the unlawful decisions to store data, made at high political levels, it's our role to be the counterpower and to, at our small scale, make it impossible for anyone to decide to store random information or to track people's behaviors on the Internet. Though most citizens have no interest in “hiding” their data, they obviously have an interest in keeping control on it, whether they have or not things to keep secret. As young adults we must, if not cope with, at least consider mass surveillance issues and seize the chances we have to make it become unlawful, preventing thus other Human Rights breaches. This is our future, and this, is a serious concern for the world we'll build and live in.
Even if media@McGill first assured there would be no live stream of the speech, it is now freely available on YouTube, and I warmly invite all of you to have if only a quick glance on it.