The Other Ed Snowdens: Inside the Mind of Two Privacy Whistleblowers

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It is not easy to lead the encrypted life.

Ed Snowden is not alone. And we're not talking about how his girlfriend has moved in with him in Russia. There have been a handful of other technologists who've taken a bold stand and faced off with the U.S. government to protect your privacy from mass surveillance. We don't yet know if it ends well for any of them. 

Our two guests in this show each risked their livelihood by refusing to help the NSA or FBI snoop on Americans. Let's get to know them. 

“This is our responsibility as Americans to speak out against something that we think is wrong because we are really setting the standard for future generations,” Ladar Levison.

Ladar Levison and William Binney both play a role in the Ed Snowden affair—and they each appear prominently in Laura Poitras' new documentary Citizenfour. Binney worked for the NSA for more than 30 years. He was an early architect of the NSA systems that were eventually used for mass surveillance on U.S. citizens. That wasn't how he intended his programming skills to be used, so he quit and cried foul. Without documents to prove it though, he was overlooked for years by the general public. 

Ladar Levison built the encrypted email system Lavabit that Ed Snowden has said he used for private communications. Naturally, the FBI wanted to take a look at some of those messages. But rather than turn over the keys to his encryption—something that would have compromised all his clients, not just Snowden—Levison shut down his whole company in dramatic fashion. (He was on a previous episode of New Tech City while under a gag order about the case. Listen here.) 

We wanted to find out who does something like that? Why take that stand? What's the motivation? The strategy? The fallout? We got the two men together for the first time and tried to understand the mindset of a privacy crusader. They have two very different strategies, but share one big sense of outrage.

Why not send this episode to that friend who doesn't care at all about privacy. See what they think. And please subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, or on StitcherTuneInI Heart Radio, or anywhere else using our RSS feed

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