US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden spoke during a live-stream event hosted by former Greenpeace director, Kumi Naidoo, at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg on Monday.
In the live-stream, Snowden expressed concerns of how some of world’s the largest online services collect users’ data.
The former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013, was speaking from Russia where he is currently under temporary asylum.
The event – which was dubbed “Privacy Rights, Surveillance Wrongs: An Activists’ Dialogue” – was hosted at the Women’s Jail at the Constitutional Hill complex with the aim of discussing ways of challenging state.
“One of the central problems facing the internet today is that the most popular services in the world co-operate beyond what is required of the law and there is also a question around how much companies collect which is beyond what is necessary,” Snowden said.
Snowden was speaking about companies such as Google, Skype, Apple and Yahoo! which are able to collect data from its users.
“These companies set up a business and the more we make use of their service the more information they can collect from us,” he said.
“We have to start thinking about the effects of this in a more ethical context. Companies are easily about to scan emails secretly,” Snowden added.
However, he said that that there were methods of being able to communicate without having personal data collected.
Snowden made reference to Signal, a private messaging app which successfully managed to keep messages of users from government authorities.
Snowden has been known to praise the software at various events he speaks at.
“It is possible to limit the amount of data, while still providing a valuable service that people want to use and cannot be monetised,” he said.
“Another example is to arrange a meeting in public, by posting a message like: ‘I have a bicycle for sale’ on a public platform such as Reddit to which the person you are communicating with understands the message,” he said.