Courage our network

Edward Snowden wins 2014 Ordfront Democracy Prize

Awarded on 15 November 2014

Sweden’s civic association Ordfront has awarded Edward Snowden its annual Democracy prize (Ordfronts Demokratipris).  Edward Snowden spoke by video link at the awards ceremony in Umeå alongside Glenn Greenwald, Brian Palmer of Uppsala University and Anna Wigenmark of the Ordfront board.

After accepting the award, Edward Snowden spoke for 30 minutes by live video link. He discussed corporate responsibilities for protecting customer data and the expanding dimensions of the United States’ domestic surveillance programmes, drawing on recent news reports:

This mission creep [from targeted to mass surveillance] is incredibly dangerous because we now see it being automated to things such as drones, to airplanes. Just yesterday in the Wall Street Journal there was a newspaper article headlined Americans’ Cellphones Targeted in Secret US Spy Program.

What this means is that we have airplanes in the United States, operating domestically, that have sensors attached to them that listen to the emanations of our cellphones, the wireless adaptor cards in our laptops, our bluetooth headsets, the hardware addresses in your iPad or your iPhone.

All these things have what’s called a Universally Unique Identifier, a UUID. And that means that once they’ve found out where you’ve been three times in the day – for example your home, work and where you study, where you go to study, where you go to vote, anything that can be traced back to you, your family and your associations – they can then recognise based on a very small amount of information that this hardware address is your iPhone.

And then when these planes are circling our cities – and again this was recorded yesterday, it isn’t prophecy – they can then track all your locations. Because while you sit in your office, the plane orbits you and hears your cellphone at various locations on that orbit. Based on that it can triangulate your location and track your movements.

Edward Snowden then noted that, despite the Department of Justice’s reluctance to confirm or deby the existence of this programme, it had in fact already been reported on in a national security context, based on the documents he disclosed:

This programme was a foreign intelligence programme, designed to track terrorists, that’s why it was authorised to exist … inevitably, only a few short years later, without any authorising law, without any public debate or any political discussions, we see that that same programme that was authorised to stop terorrists is now hunting small time criminals at home in our cities. But it’s affecting all of us, it’s affecting all of our communications now, simply as a product of using this technology in new and novel ways.