Edward Snowden made a digital appearance at the SXSW (South by Southwest) conference this week. He spoke on his familiar topic of the NSA mass surveillance system and how it is bringing the country to its knees. In this case he focused on how the NSA’s actions are affecting the future of the Internet and how they are “setting fire to the internet.” That may seem drastic, but Snowden believes that if people don’t feel secure with communicating through the Internet than they will limit how and what they say via the Internet. This is especially concerning when put in the context of financial and business dealings. If you don’t think that your communication is secure, you won’t do it and therefore will not conduct deals and that will eventually hurt the economy. When the Internet is compromised it hurts the future of how the technology may bloom.
This problem is beyond just the NSA. Since the ability is there, the Internet is not only fully available to the United States government, but also other countries around the world. The tools, methods, and activities are out there for other governments to copy. Additionally, the United States has set a precedent that this is okay to do to your citizens in the name of national security.
So how can the NSA undo its actions and renew trust in the safety of our Internet communication? Is there a future for the Internet or is this the beginning of a slow demise? The only answer the extremely pervasive surveillance that the NSA has thrown at us seems to be pervasive encryption. Corporations are making it harder for the NSA to view their content by boosting their security with encryption. The harder and more expensive it is for the NSA to mass surveil, the less likely they are to do it. Whatever you feel about Snowden’s decision to leak the NSA’s information, it has certainly changed the way we interact and how we feel about Internet communication. The public has been informed about their privacy and the true actions of their government. If the future of the Internet is going to bright again, it will come in a highly encrypted package.