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Snowden Urges Cloud Providers to Adopt Zero Knowledge System to Protect Customers from NSA

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Edward Snowden doesn’t believe that his disclosures about the NSA will mean the end of cloud computing.

In a lengthy interview with the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger and reporter Ewen MacAskill, Snowden said that cloud providers will have to adopt a zero knowledge system in order to keep customers safe from government surveillance.

Snowden said that a zero knowledge system is “where service providers host and process content on behalf of customers but they don’t actually know it is.”

“That’s the only way they can prove that they can be trusted,” he said.

In the interview, Snowden cites Dropbox as an example of a cloud service provider that doesn’t do this.

Dropbox “is a targeted, wannabe PRISM partner,” Snowden says, who is “hostile to privacy.” Dropbox appointed Condoleezza Rice to its board in April, and the decision was met with a lot of user protest. The company defended its decision, telling users that Rice understands its stance on privacy and transparency and “fully supports” its commitments to our users.

On the other hand, Snowden said SpiderOak is a company that is like Dropbox but does a better job of protecting customer information. It has “no access” to customer information so if it was forced to hand it over to the government, the government would have to go to users to get their encryption key.

Snowden emphasized that users and professionals will have to take their privacy into their own hands.

“You make the precautions you can so that even if you are under surveillance there’s no sensitive information for you to expose,” Snowden said.

Journalists, doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professions will require new professional training and standards to protect clients in this new climate.

“Anyone who has an obligation to protect the privacy of their clients is facing a new and challenging world,” Snowden said.

“Technology can actually increase privacy, but not if we sleepwalk into new applications of it considering the implications of these new technologies,” he said.

In the interview, Snowden also confirms a recent report by the Washington Post which said that NSA analysts could access “startlingly intimate” personal data of regular citizens. Snowden said that NSA employees regularly pass around intimate nude photos they get their hands on as part of the surveillance efforts.

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