Notorious Edward Snowden, known as a National Security Agency (NSA) informer in the US, will join this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival roster of speakers in Austin Texas.

Snowden ran from the US in June, taking with him, top-secret documents.  However, he will appear through a teleconference next Monday, from Russia, and will speak about the technology community and the need to defend itself from mass surveillance.

Snowden will have a conversation with Christopher Soghoian, who is a principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.  “The conversation will be focused on the impact of the NSA’s spying efforts on the technology community and the ways in which technology can help to protect us from mass surveillance,” says a press release.


A nonprofit media organisation, called Texas Tribune, will stream it live while audience members get to ask questions.  “The news and the government each have so many different perspectives,” Josh Baer (tech entrepreneur) said. “It’s always refreshing to get it straight from the source.”

The director of SXSW Interactive, Hugh Forrest, has stated that it has taken over 3 months to ensure Snowden would take part in this year’s programme.  “The growth of social media has fueled so much of the growth of the online ecosystem, but the revelations from the summer of 2013 expose the costs and downsides of this growth,” Forrest stated. “(Snowden) wants to talk to a tech-focused audience about the importance of building the next generation of online tools that protect user privacy.”

Subheading this year’s SXSW, is privacy and government surveillance. Featured will be other infamous speakers, including journalist and civil liberties lawyer Glenn Greenwald as well as Julien Assange, WikiLeaks founder.  Assange and Greenwald helped Snowden disperse stolen NSA documents, and both will also safely appear through teleconference.  All three live outside the US, for obvious reasons.

Felony charges of espionage and theft of government property have been placed against Snowden and he has stated he will not go back to the US until there are changes to the the informant-protection laws.  Every year, SXSW hosts music, film and interactive festivals, bringing in thousands of participants to Austin. The 10 day festival begins today.

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[Image via soulfrito]