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Whistleblower Edward Snowden speaks live in Lisbon about online privacy

“Data isn’t harmless, it is not abstract when it comes to people. And it’s not the data being exploited, it’s the people,” said Edward Snowden, in Lisbon today, denouncing the large-scale surveillance scheme developed by the CIA and NSA.

In a conversation with James Ball of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Snowden answered questions regarding the motivations that led him to expose his own country’s wrongdoings back in 2013.

“Imagine, I worked at the CIA, always followed the rules. I was a geek, I never smoked a joint, I was a bore. My family had worked for the government and I was going to do the same,” detailed Mr. Snowden.

That was his life, until he felt as if he needed to tell the “truth to the world”. “Imagine you found out that everything your agency did, that all that your colleagues did, went against what was in the constitution.”

“The answer was clear to me. I believe the public has a right to know the truth.” “They were watching people, prospecting them, that’s what I called permanent vigilance. They did it anyway, even if people had done nothing, and nobody with power could do anything because it could be profitable,” he revealed.

Regarding the state of the technological world presently, specifically commenting on so-called big tech, he argued that “their business model is abuse.” These were his words to massive tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. However, this isn’t exactly a new development, Snowden has mentioned in previous interviews he has given that he points his finger at big tech, criticizing them for their lack of transparency over what they do with their customers’ private information.

At the end of the talk in front of the Web Summit audience, he uttered a rallying message, pushing for individuals to take better care of giving out their personal details. “The law is not the only thing that can protect us, technology is not the only thing that can protect us – we can protect ourselves,” he concluded.