When the world’s most famous whistle-blower Edward Snowden decided to hot foot it across the world in possession of a wealth of the NSA’s secrets the reasons behind his actions were clear. Feeling that security organizations such as the NSA and GCHQ’s raison d’etre was doing more harm than good, he soon became disillusioned with the organization to which he had sworn secrecy, and as such, sought to expose its actions to the world.
The rest is history and while Snowden remains very high on the most wanted list on both sides of the Atlantic, he has, unsurprisingly, become a celebrity, with many people across the globe seeing him as a real-life hero and not the traitor that the US and UK governments would have us believe.
Addressing the nation
On Christmas Day in the UK, the Queen habitually addresses the nation at around 3 p.m. on BBC television. At the same time as the Queen’s speech is televised, another leading UK television channel, Channel 4 televises an alternative message. In 2013, that message came from Snowden, who joined an eclectic list of names that have addressed the nation which includes Homer Simpson, Sharon Osborne and the president of Iran.
Watched by millions of people, Snowden talked about mass surveillance in a world that far exceeded that which George Orwell portrays in his dystopian novel 1984 and his fears of what the future will hold for generations to come.
As well as addressing citizens of the UK, Snowden has been asked to speak at conferences as well. At the South by Southwest Interactive Technology conference he gave his three tips on how to stay safe from the watchful eye of snoopers.
According to The Guardian “He struck back strongly against claims made again last week by the NSA director, General Keith Alexander, that his release of secret documents to the Guardian and other outlets last year had weakened American cyber-defenses.”
“These things are improving national security, these are improving the communications not just of Americans, but everyone in the world. Because we rely on the same standard, we rely on the ability to trust our communications, and without that, we don’t have anything,” Snowden said.
This week, Snowden made an appearance via a robot at Technology, Entertainment and Design conference where he was given a very warm welcome before discussing a range of issues such as his views on Internet privacy and precisely why he took the steps that he did to share top secret information with the world. TED is one of the world’s most prestigious conferences and the inclusion of Snowden only highlights further, how he is still regarded as very hot property.
It’s not just the world of technology that holds Snowden in high regard either. From the students at Glasgow University that voted him in as rector of the university for three years (a position he isn’t expected to take up) to numerous nomination and awards for person of the year, there has even been a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize for the world’s most wanted man.
Hero or villain?
Isa hero of the people or nothing more than a traitor? Well, we can debate the rights and wrongs of his actions for years to come. However, one thing is for sure, while the governments of the US and UK may see him a threat to national security, millions of people all over the world see Snowden as a force for good. What’s more, there is even a range of Snowden memorabilia, ranging from posters that show him tearing the badge of the NSA down the middle to action figures which you can stand alongside your Superman or Action Man figures.