Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden resurfaced again on Wednesday, delivering the “alternative Christmas message” for Britain’s Channel 4 and drawing a specific link between the NSA’s data-gathering activities and the surveillance state George Orwell described in the novel 1984.
“Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information,” Snowden said. “The types of collection in the book — microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us — are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go.”
The Guardian reported that Snowden’s message follows in the channel’s tradition of having “unusual but relevant figures” address the country on Christmas. The brief statement was filmed in Russia, where Snowden has been granted asylum since August 2013, by journalist Laura Poitras, one of the journalists to whom he provided thousands of documents covering NSA programs like PRISM and “Boundless Informant.”
“A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all,” Snowden said. “They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves — an unrecorded, unanalysed thought. And that’s a problem, because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.”
The statement was Snowden’s first televised appearance since seeking asylum on the heels of U.S. prosecution, and follows a Washington Post interview in which he rebuked accusations of being a defector and said that, “in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” since it shed light on the reach of the NSA’s data-mining both in the U.S. and abroad.
“The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it,” Snowden said. “Together, we can find a better balance. End mass surveillance. And remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.”
Watch Snowden’s statement, as aired on Wednesday, below.