This year, Great Britain’s Channel 4 selected Edward Snowden to deliver an alternative holiday address to that of Queen Elizabeth this holiday season, marking his first television appearance since seeking asylum in Moscow.
Snowden was chosen because of his disclosures of the many classified surveillance procedures in use by the NSA (and also, we hope, because his name has the word “snow” in it and it was a holiday address).
The address was filmed by Lauren Poitras, one of the few primary contacts that Snowden has in the press. According to The Guardian, Channel 4 “has 20-year history of providing unusual but relevant figures as an alternative to the Queen’s Christmas message shown by other UK broadcasters.” Past presenters include Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Snowden drew connections between the present and the surveillance state of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, stating:
Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. 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. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.
A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalyzed 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.
Snowden has started becoming less press-averse in the past few days. Earlier in the week, The Washington Post published an extensive interview with the whistleblower.