Update (12/25 3:45 p.m. PST): Edward Snowden’s alternative Christmas message demanding an end to mass surveillance was broadcast at 4:15 p.m. GMT. Original post follows below the video.
British television’s Channel 4, known for broadcasting “unusual but relevant” figures’ holiday messages as opposed to the Queen of England’s annual speech, has chosen whistle-blower Edward Snowden to convey this year’s address.
Snowden, who is responsible for opening our eyes to the omnipresence of the National Security Agency’s surveillance, was recorded by filmmaker Laura Poitras in Russia where he’s been granted temporary asylum. Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald have helped Snowden leak NSA documents and are now starting a news website funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
Although Snowden’s dispatch isn’t scheduled to appear on television until Wednesday afternoon, The Guardian has collected some snippets that have been televised in advance:
In excerpts from the address released by Channel 4, Snowden says George Orwell “warned us of the danger of this kind of information” in his dystopian novel, 1984.
Snowden says: “The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us – are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.
“A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalysed thought. And that’s a problem because privacy matters; privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.”
In the other extract of the address released, Snowden notes the political changes that have taken place since his leaked the cache documents to newspapers including the Guardian. He highlights a review of the NSA’s power that recommended it be no longer permitted to collect phone records in bulk or undermine internet security, findings endorsed in part by Barack Obama, and a federal judge’s ruling that bulk phone record collection is likely to violate the US constitution.
Snowden says: “The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.”
The whistle-blower’s message, though filmed and broadcast on another continent, comes across crystal clear, especially his words on the conversation that wouldn’t be possible today were it not for his efforts to inform society of the NSA’s unjust methods. Now, as Snowden explains, it’s our turn to effect change side by side and alter our dystopian reality.