Exiled NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a “total hero,” according to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
In an interview with Arabian Business, Wozniak expressed his strong support for Snowden, who is currently living in Russia after leaking thousands of documents to journalists about the technical capabilities of the NSA.
The whistleblower’s revelations about the US spy agency’s mass surveillance program ignited global debate about the acceptable limits of government snooping — but also drew heavy criticism from some.
Wozniak, though, is effusive about the 31-year-old contractor-turned-fugitive’s actions. “He’s a hero to me because he gave up his own life to do it… And he was a young person, to give up his life. But he did it for reasons of trying to help the rest of us and not just mess up a company he didn’t like.”
Wozniak thinks that Snowden is a “total hero … Not necessarily [for] what he exposed, but the fact that he internally came from his own heart, his own belief in the United States Constitution, what democracy and freedom was about. And now a federal judge has said that NSA data collection was unconstitutional.”
Wozniak has previously compared Snowden’s actions to those of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. He also feels “a little bit guilty” over the ways that the technologies he has helped build have been used to spy on people, the Guardian reported in 2013.
He also discussed privacy more broadly with Arabian Business, saying there was a massive missed opportunity to hardwire strong encryption tools into operating systems. “At that point in time, if Apple and Microsoft had built [encryption software PGP] into their operating system, it would have been a permanent part of email and all email would have been secure … Now we’re talking about making laws that you cannot use encryption. It’s almost like you can’t have any secrets anymore. And the modern generation just accepts this as the status quo.”
Wozniak views Apple, the company he helped build, as having one of the strongest privacy records. While “companies like Google and Facebook are trying to make money off knowing things about you,” the co-founder argues, “Apple is only making good products that you can choose to buy if you want, so I look at Apple as being more the protector of privacy than anyone else.”
Along with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne, Steve Wozniak helped create Apple in 1976. While Wayne left the company within a year, Wozniak was behind the technical innovation and developments responsible for much of the company’s early success, finally leaving the company in 1985.
Wozniak remains an outspoken member of the tech community, often giving interviews on topical issues, ranging from Apple’s rumoured development of an electric car (he thinks the automotive industry “is perfect territory for a company like Apple”) to the potential threat of AI (“computers are going to take over from humans … no question”).