When former CIA employee Edward Snowden blew the lid on the extent of digital surveillance by western governments two years ago, it sparked a fierce debate about the rights of citizens to privacy versus the duty of governments to protect against the threat of global terror. Having been exposed as colluding with these surveillance programmes, communications companies have recently sought to distance themselves from state monitoring and new technologies are emerging designed to give consumers the option of greater privacy. In this week’s Newshour Extra, Owen Bennett and his guests discuss whether Snowden’s revelations have been a gift to terrorists or whether personal freedoms have been rescued from the grip of Big Brother.
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In the wake of the Snowden affair and revelations about Gmail privacy (or lack thereof), internet pioneer and cryptography expert Phil Zimmermann joins Jian to discuss the future of online privacy and why he fears the spread of government surveillance.
Zimmermann is the inventor of Pretty Good Privacy, and one of the founders of Silent Circle, which offers a variety of secure communications services. But the company recently shut down its email service, and deleted all its clients’ data, over concerns they couldn’t guarantee its security.
Zimmermann explains just how easy it is to collect data from popular email services, why he believes everyone has something to hide, and why he doesn’t buy the justifications for widespread snooping.
"The problem is that the way things are going now with surveillance, the government doesn’t distinguish between criminals and the rest of us," he said.
"When you feel resigned, that is exactly where they want you to be."
Recent revelations about the extent of NSA surveillance have put even the standards by which encryption systems are designed into question. Encryption experts Matthew Green, Phillip Zimmerman, and Martin Hellman discuss what makes a code secure and the limits of privacy in the modern age.