Edward Snowden appeared at SXSW via satellite on Monday to talk about the NSA surveillance scandal he helped expose.

Edward Snowden Advocates For More Online Privacy

Appearing on a large screen in front of a backdrop of the U.S. Constitution, Snowden spoke as part of the tech conference. The NSA whistleblower, who is currently seeking refuge in Russia, encouraged the tech community to use technology to help fight against the U.S. government’s surveillance, which many deem a violation of privacy. During his interview, Snowden said that he has no regrets about leaking NSA documents, saying that he saw it as his duty to speak out.

“Would I do it again? Absolutely. Regardless of what happens to me, this is something we had a right to,” Snowden told the audience. “I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. And I saw the Constitution was being violated on a massive scale.”

Snowden spoke with Chris Sogohian and Ben Wizner of the ACLU and also took a few questions from the audience and Twitter. He advocated for educating the general public on technology and how the Internet functions – how to make online activity more secure and safe.

“We need public oversight…some way for trusted public figures to advocate for us. We need a watchdog that watches Congress, because if we’re not informed, we can’t consent to these (government) policies,” Snowden said when asked how he might change the U.S. government’s surveillance programs.

During his talk, Snowden also implored companies to develop better security systems and encryption technology to better protect their users, saying that it was this tech audience at SXSW that had the knowledge and skills to help make that a reality.

“I would say SXSW and the technology community and the people who are in the room in Austin right now, they’re the folks who can really fix things and can enforce our rights through technical standards,” he said.

You can watch the entire conversation in the video below.

A Conversation With Julian Assange

The auditorium where Snowden’s interview was being conducted was packed with 3,000 people. On Saturday, WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, drew a similar crowd when he participated in a Skype conversation as part of SXSW. Assange appeared from his new home at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been confined since June 2012. He is avoiding extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted in connection to an alleged rape and one alleged assault. (He claims that both charges are politically motivated and that he does not want to return to Sweden to face the charges for fear that he will then be extradited to the United States.)

Both Snowden and Assange spoke about the crucial role the Internet has played and will continue to play in world history. Assange advocated that one person’s use of the Internet should be private, as society has effectively mandated that one have an online presence.

“Now that the Internet has merged with human society, the laws of human society should apply to the Internet,” Assange said.

During his hour-long speech, Assange also claimed that if President Barack Obama tried to shut the NSA down, they would dig up dirt on him, and could even frame him for a crime and have him impeached, saying, “They [NSA] would come up with all of this dirt [on Obama]…Congress may impeach him…a criminal act would come to light."

Assange also teased that WikiLeaks had a few big leaks in the works, but refused to specify on when they would be released, saying, “I don’t like to give time frames because it tends to give the opponents of that material more time to prepare their spin lines.”

Assange also likened his life stuck inside the Ecuadorian Embassy to a prison, though he admitted that inmates are “arguably” forced to live in worse conditions.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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