The Huffington Post updated today its article about Bill Gates, who did not mince about in his words during a ‘Rolling Stone’ interview released on Thursday. He was very to the point about the mind and actions of Edward Snowden, the thief of the NSA.
Jeff Goodell interviewed Gates for the, 'Bill Gates: The Rolling Stone Interview.’ He asked Gates about whether or not he thought of Snowden as a hero or a traitor. Gates responded:
‘I think he broke the law, so I certainly wouldn't characterize him as a hero. If he wanted to raise the issues and stay in the country and engage in civil disobedience or something of that kind, or if he had been careful in terms of what he had released, then it would fit more of the model of ‘OK, I'm really trying to improve things.’ You won't find much admiration from me.’
Once that was on the plate, Goodell asked Gates if it wasn’t better now that NSA surveillance was known. Gates gave a very penetrating explanation that once the detailed files had been released with the very specific ‘techniques’ those would change rapidly to protect national security. The real question that should be in the discussion is about what are the circumstances in which the surveillance should be used, not the details of a code or any specific details. Gates saw it as not necessary to the basic debate of what the rights of Americans are and what if any violations occurred. This course brings the debate and a hearing or legal action to a much higher level that is intrinsic to the situation.
Gates raised the level of analysis when asked about the balance of safety and privacy to his reply, ‘But even in abstract – let's say you knew nothing was going on. How would you feel?' Gates expressed that there are a lot of evil people abusing technology and crazy people. But how does the U.S. protect its citizens? Do we determine surveillance on American citizens and non- citizens? Gates questions the threshold level of the information and what is of value. Some who have access to performing the surveillance and have access may not be able to determine that having a lot of information is just that but not of value.
Microsoft has received heavy scrutiny from the press and public for how much information the NSA was able to receive from the company. While Steve Ballmer was still CEO at Microsoft he was highly critical of the NSA. The executives at Microsoft did in 2013 move encryption of customers to a higher level of security.
Alex Wilhem at TechCrunch writes that, ‘Happily, Snowden’s contributions to the world help you whether you like the man behind them or not.’ That may be too flippant an attitude in regards to national security. Snowden could have raised and should have raised the question of how should surveillance be used in national security. That is the question Bill Gates, one that the wealthiest man in the world and a technology giant, has raised in his interview answers to Jeff Goodell.
Glenn Greenwald, Snowden’s first contact and one of the journalists who received Snowden stolen files, now works for billionaire and eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar new digital magazine, ‘First Look Media’. He writes and releases Snowden documents in a section of the magazine called, ‘Intercept.’ So, Greenwald releases at will and whim the Snowden documents when he chooses a topic on which to write. John Cook, who knows Greenwald, makes an interesting comment about Greenwald and his approach to the Snowden stolen files, ‘I love Glenn Greenwald but he's basically keeping the same secrets the NSA was keeping by not laying it all out there so people could look at it for themselves.’
Perhaps, Gates has made a piercing and in-depth analysis of how the debate and questions asked about surveillance are really delivered in context and content. One would expect that from one of the greatest technology minds in history versus a thief who stole passwords and did a download of NSA data that is being given to the world by a voice that chooses what and when to deliver it. Is that self-righteous method of delivery any different from the questionable massive meta-data collection? The pot is calling the kettle black.
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Twitter: Victoria Wagner@victoriaross888