Amidst major power blackouts and flooding of thousands of homes caused by severe storms, Queen Elizabeth today called for striking a balance between action and reflection, while NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden warned of threat to privacy due to data collection by states.
The Queen delivered her traditional Christmas message on BBC and other television and channels, while Snowden presented this year’s Alternative Christmas Message on Channel 4, which has a 20-year history of featuring unusual but relevant public figures on Christmas Day.
The Queen’s message, written by herself and recorded earlier this month at Buckingham Palace, mentioned events during the year, including the birth of her first great-grandson, Prince George, and the 60th anniversary of her coronation. It also mentioned the role of the Commonwealth.
Sitting at a desk in front of family photographs, the Queen said: "We all need to get the balance right between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock."
In his message on Channel 4, Snowden warned that George Orwell’s fictional warning of data collection by an overbearing state “are nothing compared to what we have available today”.
Snowden’s message was his first television appearance since arriving in Moscow earlier this year after releasing hundreds of thousands of NSA files through selected news organisations, including Britain’s The Guardian.
He said in the message: “We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person. A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all”.
He added: “They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalysed thought. And that's a problem because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be."
Snowden said his original aim was to enable people to choose how their governments watched them, by revealing the extent of secret surveillance programme. Extracts of his message were released by Channel 4 before the telecast.
He said: "The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it. Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel asking is always cheaper than spying."
Snowden’s Christmas message was filmed in Russia by film-maker Laura Poitras, who has collaborated with him on stories related to the NSA leaks.