There’s been no shortage of debate since Edward Snowden exposed the depth of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. It is still actively making headlines roughly two years after the first set of documents became public. Regardless of your position on the matter, the fact is that despite all the talk about online security and privacy and proposed reforms, NSA surveillance may still be too technical a subject for the general public to really care about.
That’s the point HBO’s John Oliver wanted to drive home in a recent one-on-one interview with Snowden himself -- a major coup for the comedian.
When asked about his motivation for the leaks, Snowden admitted he was afraid this was going to be a three-day story that everyone would forget about. But the now infamous whistleblower says he felt vindicated when everyone in the wold recognized this as a problem that we need to do something about.
Oliver begged to differ on the “everyone” part. HBO had sent camera crews to Times Square in New York to ask people about their stance on mass surveillance and Edward Snowden’s role on bringing it to the limelight. The takeaway: Snowden might be able to go home, because, in Oliver’s words, “it seems like no one knows who the fuck you are and what the fuck you did.”
Oliver’s proposed solution is to move the conversation into a different context, something that people can feel outraged about: can the NSA see my dick pics?
There’s plenty of humor throughout the interview but it also manages to explain in layman’s terms how the NSA’s different programs work to get a hold of your data. Oliver isn’t afraid of asking more serious questions either, on whether he actually read every document that was leaked, and saying Snowden should own up to the “fuck up” that was having some information published by the media without being properly redacted, putting some important intelligence at risk.
John Oliver's ultimate goal is to bring the topic of mass surveilance to the general conciousness as The Patriot Act is up for reauthorization on June 1.
Wrapping up the interview, Oliver asked if people should just stop sending dick pics, to which Snowden argued “You shouldn’t change your behavior because a government agency somewhere is doing the wrong thing. If we sacrifice our values because we’re afraid, we don’t care about those values very much.” In case that wasn't clear enough, no, it shouldn't be okay to justify the government's invasion of your privacy because "you have nothing to hide".