Snowden’s overarching claim throughout the interview was, after governments introduce tactics that limit citizens’ freedoms, because of tragedies, they are never lost.
The Patriot Act, enacted and enforced after 9/11, gave The United States government the ability to wiretap the American public without their knowledge, in the hopes of countering domestic terrorism. The goal of the act in itself wasn’t nefarious, as Snowden mentioned throughout his criticism of it, but the tactics used severely undermined the freedom’s that the American system fought so hard to constitutionalize into effect.
In the interview, Snowden doubled down and stated that authoritarian tactics had increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. He acknowledged the interviewer’s examples of how China, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea used citizens’ phones to notify them who they had been in contact with and their Covid-19 status. He explained how those tactics at face value seemed insignificant, like The Patriot Act; however, they could be used later in the future for significant acts. Snowden and the interviewer later pondered about how those governments accessed the knowledge of their citizens’ covid results. Snowden speculated how those governments might have gone about acquiring that data. He broke down that cell phone towers and wireless networks have identifiers (for each individual) that can be collected and mapped out through GPS. The identifiers allow individuals to be tracked; however, exact location pinpointing is limited because the identifier data is anonymized. The data being anonymized ensured personal privacy of individuals, but it decreased effectiveness of contact tracing Covid-19 positive results. Countries like The United States and France anonymized their citizens’ data. Authoritarian governments on the contrary may have not anonymized their citizens’ data.
Based on other information, it can be safely said that China probably doesn’t anonymize the data they collect on their individual citizens. China already has a social credit system which they use to ensure their citizens’ governmental compliance. Within this system, Chinese citizens who engage in government approved actions are rewarded with good social credit but citizens who don’t engage in these behaviors lose social credit. Once a citizen loses enough social credit, basic privileges are lost to them. All sorts of data are collected to ensure accurate social credit scores exist, like face tracking is implemented in CCTV cameras all over China, individual citizens can review other citizen’s behaviors, and personal phone information is collected.
With all the information presented, I can honestly say that Snowden is most likely right that the tactics today will still be used tomorrow by governments to collect individual citizens’ data. I don’t agree with the tactics, especially within democratic nations, because governments shouldn’t collect their citizens’ personal information without their explicit approval, especially in The United States.