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In Today’s Time, A Mass Surveillance System Would Look Like AADHAAR: Edward Snowden

Snowden also advocated criminal penalties for misuse of Aadhaar data. 

Addressing a gathering via video conferencing at Talk Journalism, whistleblower Edward Snowden expressed his opinions on Aadhaar, privacy, and the role of journalism in curbing surveillance activities of the government.

Speaking on Aadhaar and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Snowden said, “No government will say that they have decided that you don’t have rights. They would say that the are bringing in a new program that will safeguard your benefits, protect you and provide that the public budget spending comes down.”

In today’s time, a mass surveillance system would look like Aadhar. What it does is that it creates systemisation of society and that is something that is not stated in the scheme of things for UIDAI.”

He added, “What one sees in India is that if one finds a loophole in the system, they are criticised. Rather the government should take the feedback to improve the UIDAI system.”

He also advocated for strict penalties for misuse of Aadhaar data. He said, “If the government is serious about implementing Aadhar for public good than it must ensure criminal penalty against anyone who uses this for services other than the ones that the government is paying for i.e public services.”

On privacy concerns, Snowden said, “One needs to ask a question, “ why do we have a privacy problem?” We have it because it helps those who violate it.”

Snowden advised on how to tackle the problem of privacy breach. He said that there is a need of better encryption systems, strong legal systems and “journalists and people who are willing to take bigger risk for larger gains.”

When asked how journalists and journalism can help in curbing surveillance activities by the government, Snowden said, “It’s an unfair fight, with governments and big corporates on one side with all the money at their disposal versus journalists who don’t have that many resources. But Journos should remember that what they have is truth and that truth can’t be changed.”

He added, “Journalists need to look critically at the mighty and seek truth that they bring to people. We need strong whistleblower protection laws in place to safeguard those who bring out critical information. We need better laws to protect the journalists. We should not live in a world where citizens feel that they are being hunted.”

Watch the video here:

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