Around the IETF

Snowden Meets the Internet Engineering Task Force

By: Mark Nottingham

Date: November 1, 2015

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[Video transcript: transcript]

During IETF 93, approximately 170 participants attended a screening of Citizenfour, the movie about Edward Snowden’s revelations and the information that led the IETF to declare such pervasive monitoring as an attack on the Internet itself. The audience, the very people who design and maintain the Internet, watched the movie intently, their eyes glued to the screen; not a laptop was open.

There was also a surprise guest: Edward Snowden via video chat. After a standing ovation, Snowden shared his perspective on the very technology we’re defining—from DNSSEC and DANE to WiFi privacy. Audience questions were answered, and we got a rare insight into both his motivations and the technical capabilities and mindsets of those performing the pervasive monitoring attack.

Audience members say that they were impressed by the depth of his thinking. Several times he cautioned against making the Internet “anti-NSA” (National Security Administration); instead, he says our focus should be on making the user our primary stakeholder. His statement especially resonated for me because last week when we were discussing the Unsanctioned Web Tracking finding in the TAG (W3C Technical Architecture Group), Tim Berners-Lee exhorted us to design for the Web we want, not just the Web we have today.

A Word about How It Happened

This was not an official IETF event; rather, it was entirely an effort of individuals working within the rules for requesting a room at IETF meetings. When we floated the idea originally, some folks were uninterested; they thought that everyone who wanted to see the movie already had. In fact, we received enough donations to cover the screening and to make a 670 Euro donation to the Courage Foundation(—a fantastic result.

Thank you to Daniel Kahn Gillmor for arranging the Q&A and to Jake Applebaum and Laura Poitras for facilitating the screening.