You remember Edward Snowden, right? The NSA leaker who fled to Hong Kong and then Russia as the rest of America freaked out about data surveillance and privacy?
Of course you do. What you may not know is that he's "already won," as he recently told The Washington Post. Won what? Exactly.
There will be naysayers, but check out these five reasons why Edward Snowden "won" in 2013:
1. Everyone Knows... More.
While we're certain (and hoping) that the National Security Agency (NSA) still has some secrets kept to itself, Snowden's leaks did make Americans and the world privy to some pretty interesting spy programs.
We all got an eyeful of what Verizon was volunteering about its subscribers, and the PRISM project let us all know how data from tech giants like Google and Facebook were being collected.
So Snowden got everyone to be even more cynical about our government. Win?
2. The Courts Are Cracking Down.
With cases like Clapper seemingly nailing the coffin shut on getting justice for domestic spying in the courts, Snowden's leaks offered a small window of opportunity.
The D.C. District Court recently slammed the NSA's Verizon metadata program, in small part because of the "strong evidence" of data collection provided by the Snowden leaks.
Winning in the courts? Win.
3. Presidential Advisory Committee Takes Stock.
Since June, the NSA's influence on public opinion has spawned a need for the Obama Administration to do something to address privacy concerns.
Enter a White House report recommending 46 different ways that NSA surveillance can be rejiggered to keep spying out of innocent Americans' lives.
Substantial changes coming for the NSA? Win.
4. Google Does Privacy Dance.
Weeks after the Snowden leaks began, Google began making legal waves to show that they were not the bad actors in the PRISM scandal. They challenged an NSA gag order claiming that it violated the company's First Amendment rights to free speech -- but then failed to cite any precedent.
Though the government did agree to let Google publish a very general statistic about the number of requests made of its users' data, Google is still pushing to be more transparent. We'll see how that goes.
Embarrassing Google into showing how not evil they are? Win.
5. Because Snowden Said So.
Lest you think Russia's cold winter has dampened Snowden's feelings of victory, the enigmatic former NSA employee recently granted a one-on-one interview with The Washington Post.
"I already won," Snowden told the Post. "All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed."
While that last part makes it seem like Snowden is championing himself as a hero of democracy, his "mission accomplished" isn't too much of a stretch. He was able to leak classified government documents to the media, who spread them worldwide almost instantly, and he is currently not rotting in Guantanamo Bay.
Saying "the mission's already accomplished" from a Russian hotel. Win.
It's very possible that Snowden's "wins" could become sad personal losses if he somehow "disappears" while on the run from the international intelligence community. But the changes in public opinion, government, and tech industry will still be victories.
- TV Message by Snowden Says Privacy Still Matters (The New York Times)
- NSA Scandal: More Thoughts and What's Next? (FindLaw's Technologist)
- No Expectation of Privacy If You Use Gmail, Google Says (FindLaw's Technologist)
- NSA Lies Again: Are They Tracking Your Cell Phone's Movements? (FindLaw's Technologist)