Edward Snowden to speak at annual South by Southwest Festival

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by Jamison Maeda

Edward Snowden, the man who blew the whistle on the U.S. National Security Agency in 2013 will be speaking on Monday, March 10th via satellite at the annual South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Texas. Joining Mr. Snowden is American Civil Liberties Union’s technology expert, Christopher Soghoian. The discussion will cover NSA spying, and how we can protect ourselves from mass surveillance. This is the Interactive portion of South by Southwest, and attendees will be able to present questions to Mr. Snowden and Mr. Soghoian.

Last year Edward Snowden leaked thousands of classified documents about U.S. the National Security Agency surveillance of innocent people and government officials around the world. For the months since Snowden brought this unregulated surveillance to light, public outrage has spread across the over 60 countries currently under surveillance by US and the UK and seriously strained international relations. President Obama has promised to create protections for the privacy of non-U.S. citizens, particularly foreign heads of state. But these laws have yet to be written and the international community is skeptical to say the least. The government of Britain released a statement saying a parliamentary committee would review British law to find a balance between the right to privacy and “our collective right to security.” We’re all certainly holding our breath for that.

Edward Snowden is currently exiled in Russia for raising awareness about these surveillance programs, and calling for transparency about who is monitoring our phone calls, text messages, and emails. Snowden says he won’t return to the U.S. until its whistle-blower protection laws are changed.

Also speaking at the South by Southwest teleconference will be civil rights lawyer and journalist Glenn Greenwald, as well as Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange.

A statement issued by the festival says “Surveillance and online privacy look to be one of the biggest topics of conversation at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival…SXSW agrees that a healthy debate with regards to the limits of surveillance is vital to the future of the online ecosystem.”

South by Southwest began in 1987 as a film and music festival in Austin, Texas. More recently, technology based conferences have become an integral part of the 10 day festival which may see more than 50,000 attendees this year.