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Snowden advocates at SXSW for improved data security

Zach Miners | March 11, 2014
Encryption technologies can be a powerful tool against government surveillance, but the most effective techniques are still largely out of reach to the average Internet user, Edward Snowden said Monday.

"I think that's the way to do it," Snowden said, speaking on the value of end-to-end encryption.

Some of the most advanced encryption technologies are difficult to use and they're not always free. Still, Snowden identified several steps Internet users can take to protect their data from surveillance. There's disk encryption, which protects data stored on hardware; there are browser security plug-ins like NoScript; and apps like Ghostery for Web cookie tracking, Snowden said. He also recommended Tor, which is designed to conceal online activity by routing Internet traffic through a networked relay system.

If people take those steps to encrypt their hardware and network communications, their online data would be better protected from massive government surveillance. But targeted surveillance is still harder to evade.

Snowden did not say that companies like Google and Facebook should not collect any data about their users. Rather, companies should not store data for long periods of time.

"You can do these things in a responsible way where people can still get value of the services ... without putting users at risk," he said.

The appropriate length of time that companies should retain user data was not, however, addressed during the talk.

 

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