“A society in which people can be monitored at all times is a society that breeds conformity and obedience and submission, which is why every tyrant, the most overt to the most subtle, craves that system.”
Glenn Greenwald, the journalist at the heart of the exposure of the Edward Snowden files and their revelations about the extensive surveillance of private citizens, has been singularly focused on the question of why privacy matters.
It’s a question that has arisen following the revelation that the United States and its partners have secretly converted the Internet, once heralded as an unprecedented tool of liberation and democratization, into an unprecedented zone of mass, indiscriminate surveillance.
In his keynotes, Glenn persuasively and elegantly argues the value of privacy to human freedom.
Why does this matter, even for those who say they “have nothing to hide”?
Privacy is essential to creativity and innovation. Conformity breeds in societies deprived of a private realm to explore new ideas and to dissent with freedom from judgement.
As Glenn explains in his TED talk, we as humans have an inherent need for a “realm of privacy, the ability to go somewhere where we can think and reason and interact and speak without the judgmental eyes of others being cast upon us, in which creativity and exploration and dissent exclusively reside, and that is the reason why, when we allow a society to exist in which we’re subject to constant monitoring, we allow the essence of human freedom to be severely crippled.”
He unpacks how and why mass surveillance is a much more effective means of fostering obedience and compliance with social orthodoxy than brute force could ever be.
He breaks down how the surveillance state affects individuals as well as institutions and governments. Glenn’s reporting explains how the data harvesting routines introduced by the “five eyes” security agencies (intelligence group comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, one of the most comprehensive known espionage alliances in history) have created more opportunities for malicious actors.
He touches on secrecy, criminal and civil justice abuses and civil liberties violations to media conduct, societal inequality and all forms of financial and political corruption.
He is a founding editor, with Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, of The Intercept, an online publication with the mission to provide aggressive and independent journalism across a wide range of issues.
Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service, Glenn’s reporting has lead to significant changes in intelligence oversight and provoked international debate over national security, civil liberties and information privacy.
He has won numerous awards for his NSA reporting, and for his investigative work on the arrest and detention of Chelsea Manning.
Prior to co-founding The Intercept, he was a columnist for The Guardian.