Aldo Agostinelli

Edward Joseph Snowden has written a book. Once again, the former CIA technician has made the headlines thanks to Permanent record, translated into Italian as “Errore di sistema”.

More or less everybody has heard about his story; however, for those who may not be aware of who he is, please find here below a short resume: IT technician, born in ’83, Snowden has worked for a few years for the CIA and for a company working in partnership with the NSA, the Agency for the US National Security. Due to such sensitive job, he got in touch with some secret programmes designed for controlling masses of people which the US Government, together with the British one, have been enforcing over the years. In just one word: privacy. Not the privacy protected as a constitutional right acknowledged by half of the world, but the privacy violated to monitor private citizens and public bodies.

In 2013 Snowden let the cat out of the bag and, with the help of a journalist working for the Guardian, disclosed several secret documents, revealing the wiretapping programmes existing between America and Europe. The rest is history: he was forced to flee, ask for political asylum and move to Russia. That’s all. If you want to find out more about him, you just have to Google his name and start reading the huge amount of articles and posts written about him.

Now, with his latest book, Snowden is back in the spotlight. Once again, it is all about “privacy”. Citizen’s privacy  and the one abused by those who are expected to protect it and preserve it. According to his opinion, data and communication confidentiality and privacy are the pillars of citizenship. We are talking about a free zone surrounding individuals, an area which should remain untouched by governments which should not be allowed to trespass its borders, a thin line between what they “can” and “cannot” do.

The very concept of what is known as whistleblowing, i.e. “reporting”, even though in its original English version it has got denser nuances of meaning, is embedded into constitutions and is one of the main principles defending civil rights.

As explained by researcher and journalist Philip di Salvo, who has interviewed the man behind the NSA case twice, the book “Errore di sistema” unveils  Snowden’s double role as an internet user and as a hacker.  Born in a period when personal data gathered online were not as precious as oil, and having grown up in a cyberspace where, on the contrary, privacy has become, depending on who is controlling it, an amusement park ( for governments ) or  a source of income (businesses, big techs etc), Snowden has written about  “surveillance capitalism”. That is to say, the end of the internet as the realm of individual freedom, and its transformation into the place where to grab as much money as possible (The genesis of a whistleblower: how much Snowden you can find into Snowden’s book).

From utopia to dystopia and back, Snowden is calling for a different web, similar to its origins and to the one of broken dreams. Privacy is important. Safeguarding it is crucial because it deals with who we are. What is even more important is to reinforce the limit preventing governments and companies to browse around our private lives. Is this overkill ? Think about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the following ones before answering.

Nevertheless, whatever your opinion may be, “Errore di sistema” makes you wonder about several crucial issues which are worth thinking about.

What do you think of privacy? Absolute or relative? Do you think there are cases when governments should be allowed to invade their citizens’ privacy? Tweet  @agostinellialdo.

To find out more about the digital world, you may read my latest book entitled: “People Are Media” 

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Aldo Agostinelli