NSA leaker Edward Snowden addressed a packed auditorium at South by Southwest today, speaking via livestream from Russia. In response to questions from ACLU program director Ben Wizner, Snowden called on internet service developers to thwart the NSA by making strong encryption ubiquitous. "They're setting fire to the future of the internet," Snowden told the audience. "The people who are in this room now, you're all the firefighters. And we need you to help us fix this."
In conjunction with Wizner's co-presenter Christopher Soghoian, Snowden called for end-to-end encryption that would keep the NSA from snooping on data simply by tapping into servers or internet backbone cables. The goal, they insisted, wasn't to "blind the NSA" but to make bulk collection unfeasible. Encryption technologies like Tor can effectively secure communications, but they're difficult to implement for many people, especially when less secure options are virtually painless (Snowden's talk was held through Google Hangouts.) Nonetheless, Snowden said they could provide real protection against surveillance. "Encryption does work. It's the defense against the dark arts in the digital realm," he said.
After absconding with leaked NSA documents, Snowden is living in Russia under a temporary asylum agreement, and his future is precarious; US officials have called for him to return and face charges for the leaks. Nonetheless, he said in today's talk that he doesn't regret his decisions. "Would I do it again? Absolutely yes," he said. "I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and I felt the Constitution was being violated on a massive scale." Snowden's talk has concluded, but the ACLU will be posting a replay, and a live-blog archive is currently available.