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Julian Assange Talks Surveillance, Leaks At SXSW

Julian Assange conducted an hour-long Skype interview on surveillance, security and leaking at South by Southwest Saturday.
Posted at 10:29 AM, Mar 09, 2014

Everyone's making it to South by Southwest this year — even Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who held an hour-long Skype call with attendees Saturday.

Speaking from political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange took questions from Twitter and the audience on surveillance, security and the business of leaking. (Via Leaksource dotInfo)

And he criticized Facebook and Google for collecting so much information about their users. (Via CNN)

Assange said leaks are therefore something of a public service. "The way human institutions behave … is all obscured by some sort of fog. Every now and then there's a clearing in the fog with one of these disclosures." (Via CNET)

According to VentureBeat, Assange warned only about one percent of what surveillance groups have collected has ever leaked to the public. He said the total amount of stored information roughly doubles every 18 months.

"He told a large crowd that new leaks are forthcoming, but did not offer specifics. Assange said he's fearful, but feels compelled to act."

"Only a fool has no fear. Rather, courage is seeing fear and still proceeding anyway." (Via WFMJ)

But it's lines like that that prompted Mashable's Christina Warren to call the appearance "All talk but nothing to say": "It was less of a conversation than an opportunity for Assange to pontificate at length..."

But Fortune's Erin Griffith says there were some interesting tidbits — it's just that not everyone got to hear them. The auditorium emptied to half of its original audience of roughly 5,000 amid persistent technical problems.

The audio cut out several times, for example, prompting Assange to twice ask the audience to raise their hands if they could hear him.

W"Unfortunately, the Assange session made it clear that live, in-person guests trump remote appearances." (via Fortune)

But South by Southwest will try the format at least once more: it will host a conference call with former NSA analyst Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald on Monday.