The film Citizen Four, which tells the tale of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden from his initial contact with journalist Glenn Greenwald up to his exile in Russia, won an Oscar last month and according to the CEO of F-Secure Christian Frederikson, when he saw it he said he was “not surprised” as he “thought it was mind blowing”.
Speaking on a panel this week in London in conjunction with the 44CON Cyber Security conference, Frederikson commented on how very calm Snowden appeared, that he was “very Finnish or British in his behaviour”.
He said: “Whatever your view is of him, you have got to admit that what he did was extremely brave. Could you do the same? It is an extremely brave thing that he did and he believes strongly in what he does.”
In a Q&A panel, Frederikson was asked if he felt that privacy was dead, and he admitted that in a way it was, as privacy is dead as we know it, but he felt strongly about it. He acknowledged that it is “dead in a way”, but F-Secure and others can do all that they can and use all resources we have to fight back.
He said: “Who are we to say we are better than anyone else to fight for digital freedom? I would claim a few things: we are from Finland and we are proud of our privacy, we are also a low corrupt country which matters as matters stay unpolitical, and it gives us an advantage as nobody else can claim that in our industry and I believe it brings trust.
“It is in the Finnish DNA not to talk and it is easy to trust us as we are strong and care and we do the law to protect our customers.”
Mike Harris, campaign director of lobby group Don’t Spy On Us, said that the two years since Snowden has generated an enormous global debate in privacy to become an active human right, and he had seen interest from society, but he admitted that there is a long way to go and arguably, nothing has changed.
“The law has not been reformed and we have got a battle on our hands to make the public understand that there has been a move to targeted surveillance, and the battle has got to be won,” he said. “We are now in an era where we need more transparency.”
Also speaking was Guardian journalist Ewan McAskill, who met Snowden in Hong Kong. He described the whistle-blower as “the hero in this” as this was a constitutional issue and he gave up his life and home in Hawaii and became a fugitive.
“He is stuck in Russia and back in the USA, he’d face 30 years in jail, but realistically he is looking at a lifetime in jail,” he said. “But in Germany, where there is 90 per cent support for Snowden and anger over what happened to Merkel and Stasi history, they would send him straight to the US and looking at spending rest of his life in Russia. Part of my work as part of coalition is to get him into western Europe.”
Asked if Finland could host Snowden, Frederikson said he would be “proud if Finland hosted him”, and he acknowledged the good fighting spirit and privacy fighting is very strong.
Concluding, F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hypponen said that he had used privacy tools in the past, but only a few times a month. Since the surveillance issues were detailed however, he is now using PGP several times a day.
Could a vendor promise ultimate security and host one of the world’s most wanted whistle-blowers. It certainly has its heart in security and privacy and has shown its interest in promoting the case for supporting Snowden, but the question should be asked further – is there not a space at F-Secure HQ for Ed to lodge?