back to article Snowden wants YOU – yes, YOU – to build spy-busting tech

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden wants the geeks of the world to develop anti-spying technology to prevent governments spying on their citizens. In a keynote address delivered to the Hope X hacker conference in New York City on Saturday, Snowden said encryption was the "first step" in fighting against government …

  1. Denarius Silver badge

    sure thats right ?

    anti-anonymity is what NSA want. Do you mean anonymising/anonmymizing ? Or am I more weary than I thought ?

    1. d3rrial

      Re: sure thats right ?

      Maybe the GCHQ went on to try and edit this article but only got as far as the first line...

  2. Graham Marsden
    Big Brother

    Cue the usual...

    ... "Won't Someone Think of the PaedoTerrorists" arguments from those who think that the only way to keep us "safe" is for us to be obedient sheeple and not worry about the Government and Security Services from trying to spy on everything we do and everything we say and find out everyone we talk to and monitor everything we read "Just in Case" we might do something bad at some point.

    It's not as if there's any risk of False Positives or mis-reading of the data or mistakes being made that result in innocent people being arrested, let alone charged because they have a name similar to someone else's or they just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Of course we shouldn't worry about this. Of course it's not a violation of our Civil Liberties and Human Rights. Of course it doesn't do us any harm because obviously we're not important enough for them to actually pay any attention to, so it's ok to let them keep doing it. And anyway, we don't have anything do hide, do we, so we have nothing to fear...

  3. Nuke
    Thumb Down

    FTFA "He said it was the "civic duty" of technologists to educate the public on how systems work "

    Good luck with that, and I've got better things to do

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      I upgraded someone from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 and you wouldn't believe what a trauma the handful of changes were for him. It's going to be an uphill struggle.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Unfortunately you can only educate people who want to learn.

        Perceptions need to change before we can train the masses, and that's a PR job, something techies are not exactly known for.

      2. RedneckMother

        @Dan 55


        "You are an advocate to help ... shift the middle ground of technical literacy. A lot of young people understand how technology works to an extent, but the system functions are hidden from them - they don't know where the dangers are and they trust their devices."

        I think this may have something to do with the platform(s) in question - yes?

  4. Caesarius

    Undue reliance

    Snowden is right that Joe Public trusts technology too much.

    It's been going on for decades: I heard of a GP who thought that use of a modem to send data down a telephone line meant it could not be intercepted. And a GP is a few levels up from Joe Public.

    I wonder if we should blame marketing hype too: "Our product will protect you from all viruses, secure your data, and make all your communications secure".

    I remember Cypherpunks recommending that everyone use encryption so that occasional use did not attract attention.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Educate the public

    My experiments on educating my friends and fellow works showed me that only the ones that really appreciate their privacy where interested in my advices. For the rest it was something like:

    "so, you dont mind that someone from the law agencies read your emails, listen to your conversations,etc,etc?"

    "of course not, I don't have anything to hide!"

    "but that's the point, why spying on you if you are a good citizen?"

    "thats to find criminals and terrorists and paedos!"

    "but you are not none of these...*sigh*...ok, so, if you dont have nothing to hide, can I access your email? As a good friend of yours I'm concerned that you one day can kill yourself"


    "I, you mind that me, your best mate, who you know would never do anything against you, have access to your email, but care nothing if some dude, because wears a government badge, access it at his/her will?"

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: Educate the public

      Add to that:

      "I know, but what can I do about it ?

      "I am too busy

      I quote pastor Martin Niemöller at them, but they still can't be arsed :-(

  6. JimmyPage Silver badge

    There's a peculiar phenomenon at work here ...

    Where people seem to be almost pathologically incapable of imagining that tomorrow may not be the same as today. Hence @JahBless failure ... people cannot picture a government tomorrow that will abuse these powers.

    Time for the old story about frogs not noticing being slowly boiled ...

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: There's a peculiar phenomenon at work here ...

      That is exactly my concern. Today I don't really have anything to fear from what GCHQ know about me, but can you imagine what would happen in a few years of the likes of the BNP/UKIP got in to power and started looking for anyone who was a "threat" to their propaganda and monitoring of Joe Public to find them?

      Same here for most El Reg readers - dangerous intellectuals with an interest it technology...

    2. Otto is a bear.

      Open Communicaton

      If we all start encrypting our data, and conversations, just because someone might be listening, I think we loose. The whole point of Social Media is to communicate with people, and thus, it's a public place where we can all speak the same language, thus any form of protection is likely to be counter productive.

      Move down a level to eMail, private communications between you and your friends, I don't announce parties on Facebook, because you never know who might see it. But do I want to set-up and encryption scheme for eMailing my friends, and why should they use mine?

      And then there's the data on my computers, well, my work stuff is encrypted, but my personal files, why bother, like the vast majority of people, I lead a normal life, so, you want to look at my music and photos, go right ahead, all you'll find is I like trains.

      My argument is that encryption of the day to day stuff of life is pointless, no one cares, no one looks, and if we do start encrypting and password protecting everything, then we loose the power and social benefits of the Internet, can you imagine going into a pub and having to learn and agree, a new way to communicate with each and every person you meet. There's no point in Facebook et. al. doing it for us, because then they hold keys.

      If you have important papers, lock them in a draw, or encrypt them on your computer, I do, but anything else is nonsense, and paranoia, unless you live in North Korea, in which case they'd probably shoot you as a spy just for having encryption.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2nd Level

    Interesting advice from a 2nd rate 2nd level admin who has no idea of the argument he's caused world-wide, what you think Debain and TOR which are both projects maintained by the NSA and CIA are the way forward, what a little self deluded world Snowden lives in. It's called 9 idiot.. Like Bind9, 9-cpu, 9 internet companies involved in it all... The 9 and there ancient egyptian gods like, ISIS, OSIRUS an RA.. You have only scratched the surface at Snowden, look deeper... LOOK MUCH DEEPER.. all that C-Plus-Plus when basic C code on it's own does the Job better.. Bell-Labs and Spies.. Oh now the illumination grasp's you.. The "follow the white rabbit!" and the "MATRIX" along with the "Mutual Allied TerroRist Information Exchange!" The CIA and human rights abuses under MK-Ultra and there experiments on Children with electro-therepy, Psyop's and LSD.. Oh now the light of illumination dawns... All too late!

    Now do you see the light???

    1. Blitheringeejit

      Re: 2nd Level

      Yes! YES! I see the light!! Jesus H tapdancing Christ I have seeeeen the light!

      (3 mins 15 secs)

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: 2nd Level

      "all that C-Plus-Plus when basic C code on it's own does the Job better"

      As amusing as your post was, I believe that security level code is not inherently "better" in one language in preference to another. The people who can pass the -S option to their compiler and understand that output and correlate it to the binaries...they're the ones we need.

      I'm referring, of course, to an article on how much people trust their compiler, that it won't recognise specific cases and insert code to allow backdoor access in otherwise legitimate code.

      Oh, and yes, I see the light. It blinks every time my harddisc is accessed.

    3. VinceH

      Re: 2nd Level

      "Now do you see the light???"

      Can I have some of your tablets? Mine are crap compared to yours.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 2nd Level

      No more Robert Anton Wilson for that person!


    Actually we should provide tools that should not assume that the user is a sysadmin or a programmer, and thats our failure until today, we are trying to provide something like that;)

    1. Opr_Sys


      the systemic failure is the Confederated united States... it's like the Moon, they got there first so they believe they own it all, including outer space.. The documents the rest of the world has yet to see is there vision for the future, with the UCAS-FAA-XX fighter plane which AREA-51 says is only theoretical but is already under mass production. The reason those documents are all signed UFO//NOFORN is because this all came about under the presidential directive of "the One" hence the matrix and welcome to all those Submarine Cables linking much of the world together, but the rest of the world draw's no comfort from the fact the US has had a monopoly on it's software & hardware patents for generations... Whilst they seem to invade every other civilized country seeking to promote democracy and then it begs the question about flight MH17.. Was it the Russians, the Ukrainians or in relativity the US of A? i do believe the A - must stand for Arseholes... whilst they are afraid to admit the truth! Be truthful for once.. when Rocker-feller died, the rest of the world Cheered!

      1. Opr_Sys

        Re: Noo..

        of course there political class is too stupified by the Law to actually realise that any debt that is beyond 7 years is actually STATUTE BARRED by Law.. so yes the US could in theory write off all it's debt's by saying "you know what, we cant afford to pay them, then they could prosecute those that have held office for the last countless years shagging intern's on there desktop, sniffing mary jane and including the latest one that wants to incarcerate you all with preventative policing!" wake up america!

        it's time to Police the federal reserve and hold your political class to account over there actions...

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Noo..

          "sniffing mary jane" ... ? Girl's shoes?

  9. mhenriday
    Thumb Up

    Bravo, Mr Snowden !

    I sincerely hope that you inspired no few attendees at the Hope X hacker conference, and that some of them do manage to produce user-friendly products which hinder the type of snooping carried out by organisations like the NSA, GCHQ, FRA, etc, etc, ad nauseam....


    1. Opr_Sys
      Thumb Down

      Re: Bravo, Mr Snowden !

      twit.. those agency previously mentioned have little regard for the laws of the land, believing themselves to be above the law and as for HopeX there website has already been Powned in advance of snowdens appearance.. if i where you snowflake, i would disappear because the admin(istration) is gunning for you in a Big way with there D-wave and all that spy shit they've been using on the rest of the world for a Generation... they know that spying on OPEC has little to do with stopping terror and its all about keeping there mangy cursed arse in office...

      After all there's no denying they seem to love there Political position, they get to sanction everybody else that wants to disagree.. But the tell tail is we voted you in and we can sure as hell vote you out.. FILTH.. How did we elect these people and end up looking up to them, oh thats Psyops and Monarch programing.. they might kill there ex-wife "Diana" princess of wales, they might do away with JFK.. but were on to them and we're going to destroy them all, not over the network's but in courts that uphold civilized human rights... That will no doubt tell them mass-murder of innocent civilians and women and children to promote your political agenda is Wrong!

      Abdicate now and enjoy your bermuda gains, before the Public come to Lynch you...

      1. heyrick Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Bravo, Mr Snowden !

        Ah, I get it now.

        You're a CIA op, looking to discredit all of this by making it seem like the ramblings of a bunch of lunatics. Well, after the ways you failed to bump off Castro (at least, the ones we know about), don't you dare come here trying to make us look like crazies.

        1. Opr_Sys

          Re: Bravo, Mr Snowden !

          CiA - Credit information Agency - Can kiss my ass!

          NSA- Not Secret Anymore Agency - Can kiss my ass!

          As for Castro.. he was the only guy lately who made any sense - with re: David v Goliath comment!

          Obama: doesn't worship David v Goliath he worships Goliath v David!

          Quoted in response to IS-REAL - bunch of hopeless twatters, they got handed a load of land and said OMG, it's Real.. hence.. iS-reAl!

          Let's all look forward the Arabic nations finally figuring out who's been fuc**ng them for the last 100 years in a war of crusader against jihadist and watch whilst the west squirms when they come home.. An oh boy are those Guys.. Pissed!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Listen to him, russia has already aired the video's of ukrainian rebels taking the respocibilty, everything that comes out of this man's mouth is a lie..

    A&B Media LLC owned by the CIA.. All lies.. PsyOps over the Networks all Lie's... America is all holy and good and can do no wrong... How about "Fuck off obama!"

    Whilst he's MURDERED over 560 People with drone strikes, no Judge no jury just the executioner.. HE IS A MASS MURDERER just Like BUSH!

    An listen to the next Lier... Kissing america's ass, we shouldnt turn a Blind eye when smaller countries stand up to bigger ones says the Jew who's got nothing to say about isreal, but wants sanctions on the russians! An not the Filthy YANKS whistling DIXIE whilst they sit in Office!!!

  11. Opr_Sys


    Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,

    Cinnamon seed and sandy bottom,

    Look away, look away, look away - Dixie Land.

    Ole Missus marry "Will the weaver"

    Obama was a gay deceiver

    Look away! Look away! Look away!

    Dixie Land..

    But when he put his arm around 'er,

    He smiled fierce as a forty pounder,

    Look away! Look away! Look away!

    Dixie Land....

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've got a Pen

    Martin Luther King - "I have a dream!"

    Barrak Hussain Obama - "I have a drone!"

  13. Opr_Sys


    Here's how you secure peace in the middle east, firstly you appologise to all of us for trying to have some kind of preventative police force, next you abolish the FEMA concentration CAMP's that are all over the net, appologise for those too, its time to admit your friend Eric is smoking crack and doesnt understand international law as well as the U.N. Next you need to fire a shit-load of people that are feeding you bull-shit.. Including the four star Generals, that the Army did away with years ago because they concluded in a private report that they where all Kiddy-Fiddlers... Then you need to get a Grip on your border controls and following that you need to tell ISREAL that if they dont stop fucking with the arabic nation's they're going to come unstuck and you can secure Mr Netinyahoo's responce by telling him that failure to comply will result in a nuke making isreal dissappear.. Caution: I wouldnt try that approach with Putin because he'd call your Bluff... But I doubt ISREAL would because there a small nation and thusly, easy to Bully!

  14. Opr_Sys


    Veiled threats work wonders, real threats work even better... Wouldn't you agree Eric.. Like the threat of millions of us figuring out that Google would like to read your brain, followed with the very real threat that you'll be assassinated for being a dork!

  15. Opr_Sys


    Kill that twat .. Brin, Page and Schmidt! Oh the Public Love US including GeoHotz.. Who hacked Sony and now he's part of our project Zero team whilst we dig up all the Submarine Cables... "Oh you so deserve to die, let me count the ways.. too bad there's no SELECTORS because its like winning the lottery!" it's like Windows 95 and NSA_key.dll and nobody has figured it out yet, that our whole political system is fucked beyond repair.. Oh wait.. Did some-one leak it all.. Yes, HE DID!

    And whats the great PLAN we'll go back to business.. Time for a re-think,

    You Think.. My God you actually think... Oh my doh!

    Carry on arsehole!

  16. ops4096

    Not going to happen !!!

    I applaud and vigorously support Mr. Snowden's suggestion that our rights MUST (my emphasis) be encoded into the programs and PROTOCOLS on which we rely every day. I seriously and sincerely doubt however that anyone, let alone the entrenched interests who construct and maintain the Internet, will in any way be moved to action.

    As instance I cite the farce that is known as email. Architectural and design decision were made which did not consider the mass adoption of email by billions. Nor were the possibilities of incompetent, untrusted and malevolent actors considered. As a small illustrative example. Why, aside from the godlike feeling of absolute power conferred, do these servers allow sysadmins (or anybody who has hacked their account) to view or search the CONTENT of emails. The mail server programs implementing these flawed protocols were and continue to be kludges requiring near genius levels of competence to correctly configure and maintain. These, I believe, are the privacy busting facts to which Mr Snowden alludes and refers.

    These flaws were and are directly responsible for the tsunami of email spam and malware which began all of twenty years ago. The response was NOT to realize that the protocols were flawed and that serious refactoring was required. Instead castles of sand were built on top of quicksand. Heuristic Bayesian spam filters I'm looking at you here. This non response has directly enabled hundreds (if not perhaps thousands) of millions of dollars worth of damage and computer fraud yet still the protocols and programs were and still are not redesigned !!!

    One could go on and on with similar critiques of virtually every piece of tcp/ip's fundamental infrastructure.

    If such serious monetary damage cannot impel substantive action this poster asserts that it is difficulty to imagine Mr Snowden's totally laudable revelations and prescriptions having any effect whatsoever.

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