US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden believes that citizens need to push institutions for a right to encryption when communicating.
Snowden was speaking via live stream to an audience at a briefing on privacy rights and surveillance wrongs in Johannesburg on Monday.
“We need to highlight the importance of the right to encryption and the only way we can win is by removing institutional capabilities and showing people that this is the way the world should work,” he said.
The event was hosted at the historic Women’s Jail at the Constitutional Hill complex, with the aim of providing an opportunity to discuss ways of challenging state surveillance at the domestic and international level with particular attention given to the right of encryption.
During the live stream, Snowden was speaking with former Greenpeace international director Kumi Naidoo. Snowden said that users were making headway in the use of encryption when online.
“The new iPhone will offer better security while Android devices are less secure, making them easier to hack. But we are making headway because Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, recently said that 50% of users were requesting encrypted versions of Web pages,” Snowden said.
He added that there was a social value of privacy to having encryption.
“Every person should have the right to encryption,” he said.
Snowden acknowledged that while encryption prevented authorities from being able to investigate crimes and illegal activity, what he pushed for was the prevention of mass surveillance.
“People believe we are in the golden age of surveillance, but we don’t want authorities not to be able to investigate people. However, right now, things like medical devices are being hacked and the public is put at risk,” he said.