A Trump presidency isn't necessarily better or worse for individual privacy than the Obama administration, Edward Snowden said today.
Speaking via video link at a conference in the Netherlands, the former National Security Agency consultant said the best protection against government surveillance is not a vote but popular activism.
"At the end of the day, this is just a president," Snowden said. "If we want to see a change, we must force it through ourselves."
Still, he admitted that some categories of U.S. citizens that Trump has antagonized -- including liberal activists and ethnic minorities -- have the most to lose from government surveillance. Using his 2013 leak of classified NSA documents as an example, Snowden outlined the difficulties activists face in overturning what they consider to be illegal practices without the help of courts.
Following Snowden's revelations, the Supreme Court declared some of the NSA's activities illegal. Snowden argued that the leaks wouldn't have been possible without the ability to communicate with journalists using encryption. He considers hiding his activities from an Obama-controlled NSA to be no more or less difficult than one under Trump's control, but he said that future whistleblowers and activists should not have to understand how to protect their electronic communications from surveillance.
"Privacy is not intended for the majority," Snowden said. "Minorities, vulnerable populations, people who don't fit in -- if you disagree with the majority opinion, you are the one that privacy is for."
Snowden, who is currently living in an undisclosed location in Russia while he seeks permanent asylum, also said he was not worried about suggestions that Trump has a cozier stance toward Russia and Vladimir Putin than President Obama does.
"I don't worry about it," he said, but he acknowledged that "it would be crazy to dismiss the idea of this guy who presents himself as a big dealmaker of trying to make a deal" with Putin to extradite Snowden to the U.S. Snowden faces criminal charges for violating the Espionage Act and theft of government property.