Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech

Susan Nunziata, Director of Editorial | 3/11/2014 | 17 comments

Susan Nunziata
Edward J. Snowden used a Google+ hangout to call techies to the frontlines of privacy protection during his March 10 keynote at the SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas. Snowden also stressed that, rather than undertaking a massive information-gathering effort, the US government needs to be doing more to protect intellectual property.

According to a report in Reuters, Snowden said "the government's priority has been an expansive and ill-executed system of massive information collection instead of protecting the vast amounts of intellectual property that support the U.S. economy."

Based on media reports of his SXSW address, Snowden was speaking to a largely sympathetic crowd, which is probably no big surprise. After all, SXSW began in 1987 as a showcase for independent and alternative music, a way to provide exposure and opportunity for artists who could not otherwise get the attention of traditional monolithic record labels.

Some ten years later, the music industry became the canary in the proverbial coal mine of intellectual property protection. And the free sharing of music, video, and written content via the Internet is, arguably, the primary reason why the value of such intellectual property has suffered to the point of undermining entire industries.

In the intervening years, SXSW has morphed into a major music, film, and technology meeting of the minds. So now, we see the techies -- whose developments may have undermined the core of copyright protection for recording artists -- standing shoulder to shoulder with the creative community at SXSW, applauding Snowden's call for more government involvement in IP protection.

Pretty ironic, eh?

That's not the only irony, here. As The New York Times points out in its article "Snowden Tries to Rally Tech Conference to Buttress Privacy Shields," the irony of using G+ for his address "was not lost on Mr. Snowden or others, who joked about the fact that Google was involved in many of Mr. Snowden’s revelations."

Indeed, Google probably knows more about you and me than even the NSA does. In fact, it's that very personal data being gathered by Google, Facebook, Verizon, and others that the NSA has reportedly been monitoring.

Snowden spoke to conferences attendees remotely from Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum after fleeing the US in summer 2013. Snowden, a former NSA contractor, has been under fire for leaking classified documents that revealed large scale government surveillance. Some consider him as a traitor, others call him a patriot.

According to The New York Times:

    Mr. Snowden said he hoped to raise a call to arms to developers, cryptographers and privacy activists to build better tools to protect the privacy of technology users. The goal, he said, was that encryption would ultimately be considered as a necessary, basic protection, and not something easily dismissed as an “arcane black art.”

Also on the panel during Snowden's SXSW address was Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union. According to a report from NBC News, Soghoian said "We need to lock things down. We need to make services secure out of the box. It's going to require a rethink from developers."

Funny, that's what I heard many recording industry executives say in the early days of peer-to-peer music filesharing in an effort to protect their intellectual property. So, my question today is this: Are we approaching a tipping point after which personal privacy will no longer have any meaning, just as we've lived through a tipping point in the late-1990s and early-2000s during which the intellectual property of creative works ceased to have value?

What do you think? Are you ready as a techie to answer Snowden's call to do all you can to protect privacy, even if the company you work for doesn't agree? What about intellectual property? Have you ever downloaded a song or film without paying for it? Do you think the government needs to be more involved in protecting intellectual property? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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— Susan Nunziata, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn pageLike EnterpriseEfficiency on Facebook, Director of Editorial,

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The_Phil   Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech   3/22/2014 6:26:13 PM
Re: Re : Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech
The government won't get too involved with copyright litigation, etc. That's what the corporate attorneys are for.
SunitaT   Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech   3/21/2014 2:40:55 PM
Re : Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech
These are very tricky questions you pose especially when it comes to creative works like music, movies and even books. We are all culprit of downloading movies and songs without paying at one time or the other. But who doesn't want free movies and songs? I don't see anything serious happening from government or any other quarter as long as peer to peer file sharing is in place.
SunitaT   Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech   3/21/2014 2:33:44 PM
Re : Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech
I could not really understand the connection between information gathering and intellectual property rights protection. Or did I miss something? Information gathering (for legitimate security purposes) and protecting intellectual property are important in their own right. The US government is obliged to do both and it doesn't necessarily mean undermining any of them.
SaneIT   Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech   3/17/2014 8:11:12 AM
Re: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech
I think it's funny to see the broadcasters complain about their content being stolen and talking about how much they are losing but some of the most popular new shows are being put out by Netflix and never go to broadcast TV.  Artists see the benefit of direct release but the big media companies are doing everything they can to stop the model from changing.
MDMConsult   Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech   3/15/2014 3:59:15 PM
Re: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech
Coalition members fight back to government surveillance and data collected from individuals. The threat to mobile data and NSA surveillance are said to have been cracking down on the misuse of such data.
MDMConsult   Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech   3/15/2014 3:57:39 PM
Re: the first generation of the digital natives who knowingly surrendered ..
Google has been active also in the acknowledgement of privacy and security concerns. Google advocates and partners with companies, offering resources to its users promoting data security. Google shares tools and knowledge about how to stay safe online with other companies, and works with individuals and website owners to help keep the web a safe place for everyone. The company also works with experts on online security and family safety to help provide advice.
nasimson   Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech   3/15/2014 4:13:55 AM
the first generation of the digital natives who knowingly surrendered ..
I am afraid that many years from now, we'll be remembered in history as the first generation of the digital natives who willingly surrendered their personal privacy for the free digital goods.

Its good that we still have whistleblowers like Snowden who keep us reminding of the way things should be.
Pedro Gonzales   Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech   3/14/2014 11:14:18 AM
Re: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech
SaneIT.  I completely agree, many companies are fighting hard to keep the old model working.  Rather than fighting, they should embrace such change and see how these new tool can help them.  The tech industry should push for companies to make modifications to their security policies. In terms of getting media, I used to buy a lot of music, but now, I prefer to listen to online radio.  Also, due to Redbox and Netflix, they have made it very convenient to get digital media.
SaneIT   Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech   3/14/2014 8:19:00 AM
Re: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech
Those TV broadcasters want you to think that they offer something like Netflix but there are several catches.  First you have to be paying for a very expensive service that you may or may not use.  I very rarely watch TV as it is being broadcast if there is something I want to watch it is usually watched after its first run and done on my own time.  The price point vs Netflix is drastically different.  Secondly the broadcast companies only leave a handful of episodes available for viewing on your own time.  Netflix gives you entire seasons and multiple seasons if they have them available.  Lastly I have yet to see a single "free" movie offered through my cable company and they are more than twice the cost per movie of walking 30' to a Redbox kiosk when I stop for gas so they are pricing themselves out of that market too.   The broadcast companies still don't get the big picture.
Hospice_Houngbo   Snowden at SXSW: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech   3/13/2014 8:56:19 PM
Re: Privacy, Intellectual Property & Tech
People do want flexibility to watch their favorite shows at their convenient time. Many Tv and radio stations already offer traditional live Tv broadcasting content as well as on demand streaming content comparable to what is offered by Netflix.
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