It is quite unfortunate to be an observer of such an important discussion not taking place at the level it should be in our global arena. All the fuss that took place over Edward Snowden’s courage of standing up and speaking his mind to global spectators on unethical practices executed by a governmental institution – and please note the intended broad purpose on using this particular expression – have been slowly phasing out while the guy humbles his way into simply re-establishing a safe place to live and stay.
Despite the reaction of the multilateral positioned public, what is really in question here is his reasons for “whistleblowing” his way out of a comfortable and well privileged life. Edward Snowden bet his life-worth of professional opportunities with a specific purpose: a better world. And leaving aside the counterbalanced debate on realism versus idealism views, the young professional stood up for an entire generation that has been raised alongside massive worldwide political and intellectual efforts on constructing the very foundation of the long emerging ethical social models of democracy and sustainable development.
By undertaking a close analysis on his original interview, it becomes clear that his statements over his motives behind the decision of acknowledging the public about the abusive surveillance practices that take place at high level authority tables are not only genuine, but also well reasoned:
“But if you realize that that’s the world you helped create and it’s gonna get worse with the next generation and the next generation who extend the capabilities of this sort of architecture of oppression, you realize that you might be willing to accept any risk and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is so long as the public gets to make their own decision about how that’s applied.”
And particularly interesting is his further observation that explores, even if not intentionally, but to the core of political science theories, the dual conflicting concept of personification versus personalization of power, that, if not duly comprehended and rightly suited at both the individual and collective levels, may alienate the governmental body from its people.
When the interviewer stated that many people would possibly consider Snowden being in Hong Kong as to “seeking to aid an enemy of the United States”, he responds by correcting the assumption of China being an enemy: “It’s not. I mean there are conflicts between the United States government and the Chinese PRC government but the peoples inherently we don’t care. We trade with each other freely, we’re not in armed conflict, and we’re not trying to be. We’re the largest trading partners out there for each other.” When then he defends his choice of Hong Kong for its tradition on free speech and political manifestation, closing his interview by exposing his worries of no change after the disclosures, and such continuing abuse of authority leading to a world of tyranny.
Indeed, Snowden may not see any change in the short term. It seems as his outbursting plead for public criticism can’t mobilize enough of a critical thinking mass for debating over sciences of such complex nature, and rather technically untapped by the majority of society. The regular individuals out there who have been having their everyday personal information collected, stored, and analysed by governmental agencies most of the time don’t even read privacy policies from the medias through which they communicate. In fact, most people wouldn’t know what to do, where to go, nor have the means in order to face the organizations that are yielding their data into third party systems.
Private organizations and businesses, on the other hand, have a lot to lose by not demanding proper multilateral discussions in order to set the grounds and benchmark enforced policies on ethical practices for the use of the fast evolving information technology structures. Thus, it seems like many of us have been underestimating the historical importance of Snowden’s individual efforts, made at such a high personal cost, to call the attention of global institutions to the inexistence of formal data governance laws and agreements.
To my utmost understanding, Snowden is the empowered high technical guy who throughly understands, by experience, the intangible magnitude of big data use, and urged the world to publicly discuss its cross-border political implications.