AUSTIN, Texas –— Edward Snowden, a famous whistleblower and president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, sees more value in cryptocurrencies in their use than as an investment.
"I use bitcoin to use it. In 2013, bitcoin is what I used to pay for the servers pseudonymously," Snowden said Saturday in a virtual appearance at CoinDesk’s Consensus 2022 conference in Austin, Texas. He gained fame in 2013 when he leaked classified information on the National Security Agency's surveillance of U.S. citizens.
"Generally, I don't encourage people to put their money in cryptocurrencies as a technology, and this is what distances me from a lot of people in the community," he added.
Snowden also defended the crypto industry in the face of criticism earlier this month by a group of tech experts who knocked cryptocurrency and blockchain technology in a letter to U.S. lawmakers to counter the industry's lobbying efforts.
Snowden said he believes the signatories were deliberately misunderstanding the crypto industry, recycling a number of the same legacy arguments that have been made repeatedly in the past.
"The letter is an argument for the status quo," Snowden said. "There are so many ways to address all of their concerns. All the people who have signed this latter could understand this industry. They certainly should."
Snowden did express admiration for cryptographer Bruce Schneier, who was one of the lead signatories of the letter, for his work on cryptography. But Snowden described many of the people who signed the letter as "prolific public trolls."
Addressing the current state of privacy on the internet, Snowden said he believes great progress has been made on encrypting the content of communications, but is still concerned about metadata – the records that show communications took place.
"Think of it like a van with dark windows driving down the highway," Snowden said. "You can't see who the passengers are, but you can still see where the van left from, where it ended up, how long it took – that type of thing," he said.
"We need to make sure no one can observe that level," Snowden argued. "We need to make more transactions similar, so everyone is driving the same kind of vans and gets lost in the crowd."
Snowden was charged by the U.S. with espionage and given asylum in Russia following his leak in 2013. He was granted permanent residency rights there in 2020.
Asked about his thoughts on the war in Ukraine, Snowden was forthright in saying he wished it hadn't started and hopes that it will end as soon as possible.
"I haven't talked about the Ukraine crisis in depth is because I know my comments are not going to be covered appropriately. They're not going to cover the context," he said.
He added that he is writing about the war and will publish his work eventually.
Read more: The Trojan Horse of Privacy
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