Snowden Describes How to Build an Internet Focused on Privacy

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Snowden Describes How to Build an Internet Focused on Privacy
Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor who in 2013 blew the whistle on several government-run surveillance programs, envisions an Internet that largely focuses on privacy. He urges leading group of engineers to weave an interweb that prioritises on people's privacy over anything else.

At a meeting in Prague of the Internet Engineering Task (IETF), Snowden shed light on the existing communications network and revealed how we could make it harder for governments to spy on its citizens.

"Who is the Internet for, who does it serve, who is the IETF's ultimate customer?" Snowden asked the attendees at the event over a webcast. The Academic Award-winning documentary Citizenfour was screened during the session. Citizenfour showcases conversations between Snowden and several journalists including Glenn Greenwald who reported about the revelations to the world.

Snowden expressed his concern over growing traction of credit cards on the Web. He says that it is being used as a measure to pinpoint people's identity. "We need to divorce identity from persona in a lasting way," he said. "If it's creating more metadata, this is in general a bad thing."

One way we could substantially improve the existing privacy on the Web is by implementing a new protocol, he said. He also desired for a Web that better encrypts everything taking place on it. Snowden further noted that our DNS queries should be encrypted. "People are being killed based on metadata," he shared.

Snowden advised the engineers to implement SPUD, a new protocol that reduces the number of intermediaries -- through which data passes through -- by combining transport protocols. Protocols running in the backend should "follow users' intent" and both actual content and its meta data should be encrypted, he said.

But why so much focus on the network protocols, if you may ask? The reason, as explained by Snowden himself, is that it is the place which is being exploited to glean information. Introducing SPUD protocol might not be enough, however. Snowden warned that it could create a new channel where users' metadata could get leaked.

There are many other aspects that need fixing, Snowden said. He was also not content with the fact that hardware addresses are easily identifiable. This makes it incredibly difficult to protect one's Internet.
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