Snowden: “Internet and social networks decide the rules, it’s up to us to fight for freedom” – La Stampa

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A clicks, and Edward Snowden appears on the computer. It is connected from Moscow for the fourth edition of Campus Party, this year entirely online. Affable and kind, the man who in 2013 revealed the existence of digital surveillance systems that spy half the world talks about privacy and social networks, fake news and 5G with four journalists from different countries, including La Stampa per la Italy. But – given that the topic of the discussion is “Reboot the world”, to restart the world, let’s start from the current situation: “The lockdown for me has been tough, but not so different from everyday life for the past seven years”, he explains.

For millions of people, lockdown has meant staying indoors and looking at reality through a screen.
«This has put an even greater distance between us and the world, we are witnesses and we do not take part in what is happening. But it’s time to ask if we’ve ever said we agree with this vision of the future. In reality, our answer doesn’t matter to anyone: governments have laws, police have guns, Facebook just says “click OK and continue.” And if you don’t, you can’t go anywhere, because they control the rules, and with these the platforms, and with the platforms the public opinion. So they separate us from what we consider a normal life, and take it for granted that we are comfortable with the current situation. The choice is forced, we have no alternative, and the terms of use can be changed unilaterally without notice, whether it is a social network or a government. But people are beginning to understand that something can be done to change. “

Thing?
«Be aware of having a weight in the choices that concern us. For characters like Trump, Orbán, Bolsonaro, the lifetime presidents of China and Russia, nothing is prohibited or impossible, while the slightest mistake that any person makes remains crystallized forever in archives that do not belong to us. We must fight and make sacrifices, the change does not come from the concessions of power, we must earn it by actively engaging ».

And has the situation changed with the coronavirus?

«It seems to me that many have understood the meaning of the provisions to protect public health in the various countries, in general there has been empathy and attention to others. I am worried, however, by the growing wave of authoritarianism: rather than imposing rules it would have been right to explain them. And then I see that often the opinions of scientists and experts have been questioned or ridiculed ».

Which brings us to 5G, on which the narrative is very varied: on the one hand those who say it is bad for health, on the other those who consider it a danger to national security. But is Trump right not to trust the Chinese?
«The reality is never white or black: as I explained in 2013, the USA, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, have collected the data of millions of people, with the 1G 2G, 3G and 4G networks. The NSA (National Security Agency, the body of the Department of Defense of the United States of America for which Snowden collaborated, ed), cannot bring the smartphone to the office: the fear is that someone can use it to spy. We did it, so others could do it too. 5G is the new world standard for data transmission, and the Chinese are market leaders, with better and cheaper products. How they got there is another matter. If any intelligence agency had evidence that Huawei is spying on our communications, countries like Canada and Germany would not waste money on studying the matter. But can we let a nation’s digital infrastructure be controlled by a foreign company? The answer for China is no. We trust Germany, Sweden and others, but the USA does not produce these appliances at home and therefore they are exposed to a certain vulnerability which increases with the increase of the companies and countries involved. So the narrative on Huawei is not honest, it is clear that it would be easier to control the network if it had been made by companies with which the US has been collaborating for decades: it is more about power than security ».

A On the subject of safety, tracking apps such as the Italian Immuni have been presented as an effective technological tool to control the pandemic: but once finished, there is no risk that the data they generate can be used for other purposes?
«I studied the documents of the Apple and Google platform (on which Immuni is also based): there is no expiration date, but I must say that it is better than the national alternatives; the Australian contact tracing app, for example, is a privacy nightmare, it records a lot of data and sends it to the servers. With Apple and Google, on the other hand, the information remains on the smartphone, it is shared voluntarily and only in case of infection; the idea is to respect people, to give everyone control of their data. The model is better than in the past, but can we trust it? In this case, the tech giants help governments, but they act before there are laws that force them to do it in a certain way, and that’s cause for concern. There are already extensive and detailed records of our activities, and I don’t think this is compatible with a free company, but how do we know if the facial recognition data of an app are not transmitted for example to China, which has a protection of privacy very different from ours? And finally, going back to contact tracing, I think it is useful for small outbreaks, but if there are thousands or tens of thousands it may be too late ».

Facebook is among the companies that most of all has access to our personal data. But the dilemma he has to solve is another: the traffic comes for the most part from fake news, hate speeches and radical opinions, exactly those contents that Zuckerberg says he wants to remove. Can we believe it?
«Many of Facebook’s problems are humanity’s problems, which is reflected in the social network: violence, terrorism, ignorance, lies. We don’t have to trust Zuckerberg, but in the sense that Facebook, YouTube, Google and other platforms don’t have to decide what we can say and do. Governments have the laws to punish these crimes, when they exist, and instead leave the responsibility to the platforms, which in turn pass it on to the governments. Today everyone has the opportunity to be heard, but those that involve emotions have the greatest impact. The Internet is no longer a child, it is a teenager with different feelings, who is still struggling to understand. I am convinced that technology will mature and that our relationship with it will mature: one day we will begin to reason, it will no longer be the emotion that makes us click a link. And we will finally realize the value of our participation ».



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https://www.lastampa.it/topnews/primo-piano/2020/07/12/news/snowden-internet-e-i-social-decidono-le-regole-sta-a-noi-lottare-per-la-liberta-1.39071672

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