TIME Security

A Year After the Snowden Leaks, the Online Community Is Still Fuming

Protesters hold masks depicting Snowden during demonstration in Berlin
Protesters hold masks depicting former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden during a demonstration in Berlin on May 22, 2014 Tobias Schwarz—Reuters

A massive online campaign against data surveillance begins on Thursday, with the support of Edward Snowden himself

A year ago, the classified documents released by whistle-blower Edward Snowden went public. It’s been a less-than-tranquil 12 months for those who feel personally impacted by the leak: for the American people who view the disclosed surveillance programs as a violation of individual freedoms, for the U.S. government that has spent much of its time both condemning Snowden’s actions and attempting to justify its own, and for those vigilantes of personal liberties who have flocked to the Internet to champion Snowden as a patron saint of their cause.

On June 5, a year from when the Washington Post and the Guardian broke the story that would win them a Pulitzer, the digital-rights-advocacy group Fight for the Future will commemorate the anniversary by leading a campaign against mass government surveillance that will urge the use of encryption tools to keep Internet users protected online.

The organization is calling the initiative Reset the Net, and it’s gaining momentum through the support of some vocal online communities — Anonymous, Reddit — and, via a statement presumably written from his place of asylum in Russia, Snowden himself.

“Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the U.S. Congress fails to do the same,” Snowden wrote. “This is the beginning of a movement where we the people begin to protect our universal human rights with the laws of nature rather than the laws of nations.”

On Thursday, more than 200 websites, including such Internet figureheads as Google and Imgur, will display a “splash screen” — in this case, sort of a PSA pop-up — that’ll offer their visitors “tips on ensuring web privacy” and a download link for encryption software directly from Fight for the Future’s website, Russian news agency RT reports.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Google announced its support for the push for more secure Internet use, especially in email services.

“When you mail a letter to your friend, you hope she’ll be the only person who reads it. But a lot could happen to that letter on its way from you to her, and prying eyes might try to take a look,” the post reads. “Gmail has always supported encryption in transit … and will automatically encrypt your incoming and outgoing emails if it can.”

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