Edward Snowden, the controversial IT specialist who leaked NSA files, told the Guardian that NSA employees make a habit out of sharing compromising photos with each other.
"You’ve got young enlisted guys, 18 to 22 years old. They’ve suddenly been thrust into a position of extraordinary responsibility where they now have access to all of your private records."
Snowden claims that incidents like these happen often. If true, it'd mean a different kind of privacy infringement. We expect the NSA to act with professionalism, because that's what we associate with shadowy espionage organizations.
Snowden explains what happens after the "young guys" find a compromising photo of someone.
"So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show their coworker." That sets off a chain where the most raw and private types of content — assumed to be part of a private conversation — become water cooler topics at NSA HQ. "Sooner or later, this person’s whole life has been seen by all these people. It’s never reported. Nobody ever knows about it because the auditing of these systems is incredibly weak." To be fair, this is the sort of accusation that's nearly impossible for the NSA to thoroughly dispute or discredit. And Snowden hedged slightly, saying "it could be more or less frequent" depending on the maturity level of employees.
The one thing that Snowden never mentions is punishment. It's disconcerting, to say the least, that an American citizen's personal photos could be shared by intelligence officials for fun. Scary, even.
The NSA has, of course, denied the allegations.
Here's a preview of The Guardian's forthcoming exclusive interview with Edward Snowden.
Snowden has given several interviews. They're equal parts engaging and disturbing. Click here to watch his NBC News interview from earlier this year.