AUSTIN (KXAN) – Austin and the world watched as former National Security Administration contractor Edward Snowden spoke at South By Southwest Interactive Monday morning, appearing with the reinforcement of seven proxies.
He’s in Russia but spoke to attendees through a live video conference in a packed exhibit hall. Organizers expected a big turnout and two overflow rooms were prepared.
Snowden’s known for leaking classified government documents in 2013 from the NSA, which showed foreign and domestic spying practices by the United States.
Snowden spoke with Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist of the American Civil Liberties Union. Snowden said he chose to address the crowd at SXSW instead of policy makers because he believes it’s up to the people in the technology community to fix the issue of data security, and they’ll be able to do it a lot faster than Congress can.
Snowden appeared to have no regrets about exposing the U.S. government’s surveillance methods.
“I took an oath to support the Constitution, and I felt the Constitution was violated on a massive scale,” he told the audience.
Soghoian said the reason it has been so easy for government agencies to collect so much data from the average user was because developers don’t think about security as much as they should.
“The main technical problem of the NSA is not how to collect data, it’s how to deal with the massive amounts of communication data they’ve collected,” he said.
Some people, like U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., were upset Snowden is getting a stage to talk about what he did. Pompeo wrote a letter to SXSW organizers calling Snowden a “traitor” and asked that they withdraw his invitation.
“Certainly an organization of your caliber can attract experts on these topics with knowledge superior to a man who was hired as a systems administrator and whose only apparent qualification is his willingness to steal from his own government and then to flee to that beacon of First Amendment Freedoms, The Russia of Vladimir Putin,”said Pompeo in his letter.
He went on to say he believes having Snowden sets a bad example. Currently, Snowden faces espionage charges and has taken aslyum in Russia.
Snowden is not the only controversial speaker at SXSW 2014.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke on Saturday during a panel by teleconference. He’s at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and has been there for two years, wanted on sexual assault allegations in Sweeden and for leaking U.S. secrets.
In 2006, Assange gained notoriety when he established WikiLeaks, a platform which publishes government documents in an effort to “confront corruption and publish the truth.” Since its creation, WikiLeaks has published several million documents.
For more information about SXSW Interactive 2014, visit its website.