Would You Care If Your Private Parts Were Seen by the Government?

John Oliver goes to Moscow to get down to brass tacks with exiled American Edward Snowden.
Apr 6, 2015·
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is TakePart's News Editor.

Turns out, many Americans don’t really know who former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is, and they seem to know even less about the shadowy government surveillance programs he went to lengths to reveal.

However, Americans do care deeply about the homespun pornographic images known as dick pics. Those X-rated photos—think Anthony Weiner’s fall from grace— are apparently enough to get Americans riled up about their privacy rights. As comedian John Oliver reveals, the racy, seemingly private images and Snowden’s cause are closely related.

Snowden maintains that Americans should discuss and curb the programs that collect all sorts of information via our digital footprint. Oliver went to Russia to ask Snowden to put the highly technical information in terms Americans can understand—our private parts.

“It’s not actually seen as a big deal in the culture of NSA because you see naked pictures all of the time,” Snowden told Oliver on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight. “The bad news is, they are still collecting everybody’s information—including your dick pics.”

Oliver also presents Snowden with a (chocolate) Oscar for the documentary CITIZENFOUR. (Full disclosure: CITIZENFOUR is being distributed theatrically by Radius in association with Participant Media—TakePart’s parent company—and HBO Documentary Films.)

The program finally makes Snowden’s cause a bit more relatable for an American public that seems to care about privacy but can’t quite figure out what Snowden revealed.

“It’s a real challenge to figure out how do we communicate things that require sort of years and years of technical understanding and compress that into seconds of speech. I’m sympathetic to the problem there,” Snowden told Oliver.

As Snowden reveals, those precious, private dick pics can be seen by federal agents through programs such as PRISM when they are sent via email programs such as Gmail, or even when they are just stored by American providers in data facilities overseas—which often happens without a user’s knowledge.

Forgive the double entendre, but in that sense, your privacy is being violated coming and going.