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Snowden's Christmas message: Privacy counts

The NSA leaker, who remains in Moscow, releases a Christmas Day video with a simple reminder: our privacy is valuable.

Natalie Weinstein Former Senior Editor / News
I spent a decade as a reporter and editor before joining the CNET News staff as a copy editor in 2000, right before the dot-com bust.
Expertise Copy editing. Curating, editing and reading newsletters of all stripes. Playing any word-related game, specifically Scrabble, Wordle and Boggle. Credentials
  • I've been a journalist for more than three decades. I was a finalist in the 2021 Digiday Media Award for Best Newsletter.
Natalie Weinstein
2 min read
Edward Snowden delivers a Christmas Day video message. Channel 4/CNN/YouTube

Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency whistleblower, delivered a video message on Christmas Day via UK's Channel 4 with a simple theme: "privacy matters."

"A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves -- an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought," Snowden said in the 1-minute, 43-second message. "And that's a problem because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be."

Snowden referenced George Orwell's "1984" and noted the book's dystopian visions of microphones, video cameras, and televisions that watch people "are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go."

He also used the message as an appeal to people everywhere to rally against widespread surveillance.

"The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together, we can find a better balance," he said. "End mass surveillance. And remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying."

UK's Channel 4 chose Snowden for its annual alternative message and response to Queen Elizabeth's annual Christmas address.

Snowden has temporary asylum in Russia following his leaks earlier this year about the National Security Agency's extensive electronic surveillance programs. The US Justice Department's charges against him include violations of the Espionage Act.