SXSW highlights privacy and surveillance online

AUSTIN (KXAN) —  Privacy and surveillance are emerging among the themes at this year’s South by Southwest.

Conversations about the topics were bolstered by virtual appearances from NSA leaker Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, among others.

“I think the problem for most of us average, everyday Internet users is that we can’t opt out of the spying,” said Craig Aaron president of the nonprofit Free Press. “There [are] tools we want to use, things we need to do to participate in modern society, and a lot of companies are pulling a lot of information about where we go, what we do, where we visited.”

A U.S. Senate report found your data online is fueling what it calls “…a multi-billion dollar industry that largely operates hidden from consumer view.”

“The thing that people don’t realize too much unless they end up in a jail cell — quite frankly — is the extent to which corporations are sharing your information with government agencies,” said Kade Crockford with ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project.

Crockford and others were part of a South by Southwest session called “Spies on All Sides: We Can’t Opt Out”.

If any of the tracking or sharing makes you uncomfortable — the panel recommended software that makes it more difficult to track your information. Nathan Freitas is the founder of The Guardian Project. He deals in software that does just that.

“[If] you show how it’s possible and you make the code and resources available for startups to do this they will,” said Freitas. “I think there is a business model for privacy.”

Click here to learn more about The Guardian Project. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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