New York, March 11 IANS | 10 months ago

In a rare video-conference, former National Security Agency contractor and declared fugitive Edward Snowden has raised concerns about "personal data vulnerability" and urged companies to employ efficient methods to tackle the adverse privacy climate on the internet.

"They are setting fire to the global internet, and you guys in the room are the global firefighters," the Los Angeles Times quoted Snowden as telling a gathering of over 3,000 technology specialists Monday in Austin, Texas.

He also said that companies have failed to adequately protect the data of their customers.

Snowden, 30, opened his hour-long address amid applause at the annual South by Southwest Interactive conference or SXSW in Austin from an undisclosed location in Russia, where he is staying in asylum after he exposed the US government for its global internet surveillance programme last year.

According to him, personal information is vulnerable to "growing numbers of outside infiltrators" and not just governments.

Reacting to a query, Snowden said he held "no regrets" for his sensational expose.

"Would I do it again? Absolutely," he said

"I took an oath to support and defend the constitution. And I saw the constitution was being violated on a massive scale," he added.

British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web who was also present in the gathering, wanted to know from Snowden how he would create an accountability system of governance.

"We have an oversight model that could work," Snowden said. "The problem is when the overseers are not interested in oversight."

"SXSW agrees that a healthy debate with regards to the limits of surveillance is vital to the future of the online ecosystem," festival organisers said in a statement.

Principal technologist at American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Chris Soghoian, along with lawyer Ben Wizner, moderated the conversation on stage.

Soghoian also noted that "without Ed's disclosures, a lot of tech companies would not have improved cyber security".

Snowden lent his insight into easier means for citizens to encrypt their data.

Snowden, who faces felony charges of espionage and theft of government property, has kept a low profile of late and said he would not return until the US changed its whistle-blower protection laws.

(Posted on 11-03-2014)

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