Snowden and Techies: First Do No Harm!

Snowden taught us that governments are vacuuming up every shred of communications they can. As techies, we need to first do no harm. As we collect sensitive information about health, ethnicity, LGBT identity, refugee status, experience of violence, we need to encrypt that information, to avoid making the people we serve, targets or victims by current or future governments!

TED2014 attendees were asked to reflect on their reactions to the Snowden appearance on stage. I delivered the exhortation above from the TED main stage tonight to my fellow technologists, about our responsibility to secure sensitive information. My comments were based on the recent HuffPo op-ed authored by Enrique Piracés and me, entitled Human Rights and the Duty to Protect Sensitive Data.

Our experience working with human rights defenders, especially LGBT and Tibetan groups, give us direct insights into these challenges.  As software developers entrusted with sensitive information, we have a duty to protect the people we serve.  And, this responsibility extends to far more software developers today than we thought.

Think about it.  Encrypt all personally identifiable information with strong, open source crypto, and take a big step on the road towards doing no harm while bringing the benefits of technology to the world's most vulnerable populations!


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