Edward Snowden requests top technologists to build an internet for the people

Snowden’s Plea to Top Technologists: Build an Internet for the People

‘Everybody should be safe all the time, else we let others choose who will be safe or not,’ whistleblower tells meeting of independent internet engineers

SnowdenEdward Snowden spoke via webcast to a meeting of the Internet Engineers Task Force (IETF) on Monday. (Photo: CyberHades/flickr/cc)

The internet is not for businesses, governments, or spies. It’s for users—and it’s up to the independent web engineers to keep it safe for them.

That was the most recent message from National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, who surprised a meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in Prague, Czech Republic on Monday with a webcast Q&A.

“Who is the Internet for, who does it serve, who is the IETF’s ultimate customer?” Snowden asked of the roughly 170 engineers in the audience, referring to users. He added that current safety protocols on the web make too much private user data available to NSA and other intelligence agencies and businesses. “We need to divorce identity from persona in a lasting way,” Snowden said.

The IETF is one of the primary bodies creating voluntary standards of use, design and management of the internet, and Monday’s meeting gave Snowden a welcome platform to promote a freer and safer web.

As the Register UK reports, IETF members “have a strong independent streak, and many are still embarrassed by the fact that the NSA managed to crack a number of key internet protocols developed by the IETF and even subvert some of its working groups in their bid to develop new standards that would give the spooks easy access.”

Snowden’s 2013 revelations that the NSA was collecting bulk telephone and internet metadata prompted an ongoing global debate over the role of government surveillance and the nature of individual privacy—a phenomenon termed by media critic Jay Rosen as “the Snowden Effect.” For its part, the IETF responded to the leaks by developing a memorandum, known as a Request for Comment (RFC), entitled “Pervasive Monitoring is an Attack.”

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