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Edward Snowden gave the keynote speech of Open Rights Group’s OrgCon 2019 on July 13th, emphasizing to the audience the importance of understanding and awareness of the limits of digital freedom and privacy.

“One of the things that motivated me to come forward was to…see the gap, the distance between what the public understood the laws…to mean…and also what our capabilities were, and how those were being applied,” Edward Snowden said. “People think of 2013 as a surveillance story, but it was really a democracy story.”

OrgCon reached its participation record with over 700 attendees, as well as an impressive number of quality discussions and workshops available. The overreaching intention was to educate participants about violations of privacy rights online. The Secret Life of Your Data workshop, for example, explored personal data tracing from its source up to the edges of the cyberspace. A discussion of Dragonfly underlined the implications of Google’s plan to create a censored search engine for China.

Participants involved in workshops and presentations wanted to know what to do to protect their privacy. It’s very hard to give precise answers to these issues and OrgCon’s offerings, united by the good intentions and the thoughtfulness, started to diverge. Services like the Crypto Bar cheerfully urged to reclaim digital rights, other presentations illustrated the power of the system opposing any individual wishing to do this.

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A panel in the main lecture hall discussed the reality of facial recognition in the UK, another panel promoted exploration of government power over children in “A Safeguarding Dystopia”.

Aware of the complexity inherent in the contradictions, Snowden sounded convinced that a committed group of experts could resolve it. He was asked by a member of the audience what possibilities there are for securing data privacy and internet freedom when the internet’s younger users are apathetic about it.

He replied that the goal of activists cannot be a universal understanding of the system and why it deprives users of their rights. Instead, a new system which will protect those rights even for the uninformed must be created.

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