In a rare public interview, Edward Snowden's pixelated image appeared in front of the crowd at SXSW Interactive for an hour-long chat with the American Civil Liberties Union to touch on issues concerning government oversight and accountability.
Appearing in a Google Hangout from Russia—the irony of which was not lost on the crowd or the discussion's hosts—Snowden said one of the key issues going forward will be holding Congress responsible for abusing public trust, particularly when it comes to the issue of mass surveillance. "The key factor is accountability," said Snowden. "We can't have officials like [national intelligence director] James Clapper who can lie to everyone in the country, who can lie to the Congress, and not even face criticism."
Snowden also said Americans should be able to open and send emails without fears of NSA snooping, and called on technology companies to make information security a top priority—however challenging that may be. Specifically, he noted that PGP encryption standards—which can be very difficult to set up—need to be more user friendly if the media hopes to hold the government accountable in the future.
"We rely on the ability to trust our communications," said Snowden. "It has to pass the Glenn Greenwald test. If any journalist gets an email saying, 'Hey, I have something the public might want to know about...,' the journalist needs to be able to open that information."