Snowden on fake news, Twitter features, and the rule of law

Edward Snowden's Periscope interview with Jack Dorsey -- hosted by the Pardon Snowden campaign ranged over a lot of territory, including the special problems of metadata surveillance (metadata can be "more intrusive" than content "because it can be understood at scale"); asymmetry in privacy (where "an increasing imbalance of power" arises between citizens, with no privacy, and officials with all the privacy: "We can't even see their tax-returns"); the problems of relying on the rule of law in a "global context" where surveillance crosses borders and jurisdictions; and fake news, which Snowden thinks can't be solved by asking Google to be a "referee" but rather when "We talk and we share and we point out what is true."

Snowden also thinks you should be able to edit tweets (amen!).

It's a fascinating interview. I take small issue with Snowden's remarks on "fake news," though, in that they imply that Google isn't already serving as referee. As I've written before, Google search results reflect human editorial judgment, so the right argument to have is "how do we know if Google's judgment is good?" and not "Google should let the software make the decisions with math, instead of human judgment," because choosing which math to use is human judgment.

At the same time, he suggested that technology presents opportunities for freedom and empowerment that go beyond any one country. Yes, he said, “the law is important” (a previous interview where Snowden seemed to downplay the weight of laws and politics prompted Gizmodo’s Matt Novak to describe him as a “fucking idiot“) but he added, “We need to think about things not just in the national context, not just in the local context, but in the global context.”

“Can we correct things in the United States without correcting them for everyone else in a lot of contexts?” he asked. “No — but in the context of technology, maybe.”

For example, he said that if someone built encrypted communication technology that “that can’t be intercepted, that can’t be censored, that can’t be controlled, that can go anywhere on Earth,” they would be helping to create a “fabric of freedom” across the globe.

#AskSnowden Q&A hosted by @Jack

Edward Snowden says “the central problem of the future” is control of user data
[Anthony Ha/Techcrunch]

(via /.)