Edward Snowden calls for an end to spying in Christmas address to the UK
At this time of year in the UK it is traditional for the Queen to record a message to the nation. Broadcast on TV at 3pm just as everyone is recovering from Christmas lunch, she looks back over the year in a speech which usually has a reflective tone. In recent years there have been numerous alternatives to the Queen's speech, with broadcaster Channel 4 giving a platform to the funny, the controversial, the meaningful and the strange. Whilst not necessarily anti-monarchy, it is a broadcast that is certainly non-monarchist, and frequently of a more left-wing bent. This year, Edward Snowden used it as a mouthpiece.
The 30-year-old former NSA worker who blew the cover off the secret surveillance that is being carried out on web users all over the world. He is currently living in Russia where he sought asylum having fled from the US earlier in the year after threats of espionage charges. The two minute long address makes reference to the book 1984, with Snowden saying that George Orwell had forewarned us of such dangers but said that the spying techniques described in the classic work were nothing compared to what actually exists now.
"A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all," Snowden says, warning that "they'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves." Snowden may not be the best figurehead for the anti-NSA campaign: he has a tendency to come across as rather smug, self-satisfied and arrogant. But cut through this and what he says is correct: "Privacy matters". Security matters, of course, but at what price? Snowden points out that the discussion that is now taking place following the revelations he made will determine how much trust we can place in governments and technology.
Ultimately, what Snowden and his supporters are looking for is an end to indiscriminate mass surveillance:
"Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying."
Quite what 2014 holds for us in terms of surveillance remains to be seen, but it's unlikely that -- whatever the global backlash -- the NSA will cease its dragnet-style activities any time soon.
In some parts of the world, it is possible to watch Snowden's Christmas message on the Channel 4 website, but have a look around YouTube and you should also be able to find a copy.