Edward Snowden addressed the Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) conference, via satellite, with a primary goal: make NSA-proof software and make it easier to use.
First: remember that “hacking” does not mean “evil.” This conference is for what you might call “white-hat” hackers, which is to say that they are programmers who look for security vulnerabilities for the purpose of protecting people.
Snowden told attendees,
You in this room, right now have both the means and the capability to improve the future by encoding our rights into programs and protocols by which we rely every day.
It’s kind of a beautiful thought, really. If Americans and most citizens of the world have a legal right to privacy (understood in the American context as the illegality of warrantless search and seizure), it can exist with absolute certainty in the digital world each time uncrackable code is baked into software.
Snowden further told the audience that he would likely devote any future endeavors in the free world to this mission as well.
Take, for instance, my in-depth look at whether Tor is easy enough for everyone. In that case, the tireless work of the non-profit Tor Foundation has led to the availability of the Tor Browser Bundle, making relative anonymity on the web a real possibility for people who don’t know enough to protect themselves otherwise.
While many people around the world await legislation and other measures to curb government surveillance, a market demand for more privacy features could significantly hamper organizations like the NSA.
Other speakers at the conference included Daniel Ellsberg, who became famous in 1971 when he leaked the so-called “Pentagon Papers” to The New York Times, which revealed the shaky decision-making and concealment of facts of the American government regarding the Vietnam War.