Watch Edward Snowden: Live from Moscow, Russia from SpiderVideo starting LIVE at 7:15 p.m.

With international digital security scandals in the headlines, now more than ever people are asking, “As global citizens, what are our rights and responsibilities when it comes to privacy?”

That’s what will drive the conversation with former American intelligence officer and fugitive Edward Snowden at Dal (via livestream from Moscow, Russia).

Snowden has become synonymous with the topic, and subsequently one of the most wanted men in America, since his revelations to the media about top-secret U.S. surveillance activities.

In 2013, the former CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) computer programmer leaked top-secret documents to the media that revealed that the U.S. government had been conducting mass internet and telephone surveillance on its citizens, activities that were outside the limits of the U.S. Constitution

But whether you find yourself squarely for or against Snowden’s actions – or somewhere in the middle – the conversation on May 30 is not about Snowden. It’s about our right to privacy as global citizens.

Snowden will serve as the keynote speaker during the Open Dialogue event, which kicks off the inaugural Dalhousie Alumni Days. Open Dialogue aims to bring people together for thought-provoking conversations focused on timely and relevant topics. And one thing is for sure, privacy is a hot, albeit, necessary topic.

The Snowden Saga

The global implications of the Snowden scandal ignited a firestorm of debate about right to privacy in the digital age, and the civil rights of whistleblowers, and it made people question the surveillance acts of their own country.

Snowden uncovered secret court orders directing companies like Facebook and Google to circumvent online encryption protocols and release user information enabling the government to spy on the activities of Americans and U.S. allies such as the EU. Though U.S. officials claimed the actions were justified under the rubric of combatting terrorism.

As Snowden has stated, “These [surveillance] programs were never about terrorism. They’re about economic spying, social control and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”

Leading Expert

Professor Frank Harvey, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, agrees. “The threat of terrorism is greatly exaggerated relative to the very real threats that have a deep and profound impact on our safety, security and privacy,” says Dr. Harvey who will serve as moderator for the Snowden discussion, accompanied by Mr. Snowden’s legal counsel, Robert Tibbo.

A political scientist and internationally recognized expert on security policy, and a former Fulbright Chair and NATO Research Fellow, Dr. Harvey is well versed on the topic. “There are legitimate and pressing questions about the scope of government spending to combat exaggerated security threats and the corresponding emergence of a security industrial complex. The more troublesome feature of these trends is the apparent willingness of the public to relinquish their privacy, freedoms and civil liberties in exchange for a powerful surveillance state,” he says. “People are more inclined to be worried about exaggerated and uncontrollable risks and threats that are unfamiliar, such as terrorism, and less inclined to care about threats that they perceive as more controllable despite their enormous risks to public safety.”

After all, Professor Harvey says people don’t recognize the threat to privacy as having any influence in their day-to-day lives. “The surveillance state has a tremendous impact, but it’s not sufficiently worrisome to generate a serious backlash against that increase in control and state power,” he says.

“Essentially, people have already become willing participants in allowing their privacy to be chipped away thanks to things like social media, and they have been convinced that further erosion of their privacy is the necessary cost of keeping them safe.”

But is it? Don’t miss an opportunity to add your voice to the conversation on May 30.


As a requirement of Snowden speaking at Dal, event proceeds will go to Montreal-based non-profit For the Refugees which is working to bring to Canada the people who helped Snowden in Hong Kong.

Suggested minimum donation is $10.

Registration opens at 6 p.m. and doors at 6:30 p.m. Please arrive by 7 p.m. as entry will not be permitted once the event begins. A short Q&A discussion with questions posed by student representatives will follow the presentation.

Thank you to our sponsors Ernst and Young LLP (EY Canada) and Atlantic Security Conference, as well as the Dalhousie Faculties of Arts & Social Sciences, Computer Science, Management and Schulich School of Law for supporting this event.

Ernst & Young LLP
Ernst and Young LLP (EY Canada) Atlantic Security Conference