Attendees of a certain TED Talk in Canada got one incredible surprise when NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden made his second appearance this month via video conference alongside Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web. Snowden appeared as a "telepresence robot" and threw his support behind the Internet bill of rights Berners-Lee proposed earlier this month.
"I believe that a Magna Carta for the Internet is exactly what we need," Snowden said. "We need to encode our values not just in writing but in the structure of the Internet."
Snowden argued that now is not the time to quibble about whether Internet security is a right or left issue; it is the time to take decisive action to prevent against absolute government control and a complete end of transparency on the Internet.
"This is not a left or right issue," Snowden said. "For people who have seen and enjoyed a free and open Internet it's up to us to preserve that legacy for the next generation to enjoy. If we don't stand up to make the changes that need to be made then we'll lose that."
Snowden added that we can't take our current Internet freedom for granted. Some countries already have controls in place that limit Internet use and freedom of speech on the Web. Recently, a Chinese company eliminated certain public accounts from WeChat because the content provided by these accounts was political or controversial. These kind of restrictions are not only detrimental to political democracy and transparency, but also individual freedom and the right to privacy.
"If we let a single standard slip... we will live in a less safe world overall; we won't be able to access our banks or have any commerce without worrying about people monitoring those communications or subverting them."
When asked if there was more information to come from the stock piles of data and documents he uncovered at the NSA, Snowden said the most interesting reports are yet to come. Recently, a new report indicated that the NSA pretended to be Facebook to infect millions of computers. He hopes that this report and the ones that will soon follow will help further the cause for an Internet bill of rights and inspire lawmakers to action.
"There are absolutely more revelations to come, I don't think there is any question of that. Some of the most important reporting to be done is yet to come," Snowden said.
Perhaps the most memorable part of Snowden's TED Talks appearance was his closing speech:
"We don't have to give up our privacy to have good government," said Snowden. "We don't have to give up our liberty to have good government, and I think by working together we can have both open government and private lives."