Citizenfour, Glenn Greenwald and why privacy matters

When filmmaker Laura Poitras started receiving encrypted e-mails in 2013 from an anonymous whistleblower identifying himself as “Citizen four,” she did what any brave filmmaker would do: she picked up her camera and went to investigate.

Poitras charts what happened next in Citizenfour, a documentary that premiered Friday at the New York Film Festival. Watch the trailer:

Citizenfour provides a gripping look at events including her first meeting in Hong Kong with “Citizen four,” aka Edward Snowden (TED Talk: Here’s how we take back the Internet). Learn more about the film.

As one of the first reporters to see Edward Snowden’s files, journalist Glenn Greenwald (TED Talk: Why privacy matters) has broken many stories on the global surveillance being conducted by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. Greenwald’s current book on the topic, No Place to Hide, was released in May. He continues to write about surveillance issues for The Intercept.


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What are you revealing online? Much more than you think


What can be guessed about you from your online behavior? Two computer privacy experts — economist Alessandro Acquisti and computer scientist Jennifer Golbeck — on how little we know about how much others know.

The best indicator of high intelligence on Facebook is apparently liking a page for curly fries. At least, that’s according to computer scientist Jennifer Golbeck (TED Talk: The curly fry conundrum), whose job is to figure out what we reveal about ourselves through what we say — and don’t say — online. Of course, the lines between online and “real” are increasingly blurred, but as Golbeck and privacy economist Alessandro Acquisti (TED Talk: Why privacy matters) both agree, that’s no reason to stop paying attention. TED got the two together to discuss what the web knows about you, and what we can do about the things we’d rather it forgot. An edited version of the conversation follows.


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The Cry of Innocence

There was no one around at the time near the building, just like every other day. The cool breeze rustled a few leaves and kissed a feeling of tranquility into anyone who passed by. The darkness and isolation made one of the two girls seated on the bench more courageous than usual. “Appdi podu podu podu…….” , the mobile sang. Devi sprang to her feet and started dancing merrily, unable to hide the bounce the song gave her very soul. Just then a middle-aged couple passed by and smiled gently at the young girl who was dancing joyously. Devi blushed upon being caught and all of a sudden, didn’t know what she was supposed to do with her hands or legs that seemed so disobedient now.



Having walked further away from the girls, the husband said to his wife, “Now that is what you call innocence. Her dad is in deathbed and yet this kid is here dancing with no worries whatsoever. What a pity!”

Devi’s father had been suffering from throat cancer for eight months now. Her mother was forced to admit him in a well-known hospital in Chennai after all the hospitals in Bangalore turned out to be way too expensive. Devi and her younger sister were left behind in Bangalore under the care of trusted neighbours, so they wouldn’t have to miss school. Devi’s father was a driver and a gardener at the colony they lived in, while her mother was a domestic helper. Both of them were hard-working and their only dream was to give their daughters an education. Devi too was a smart and responsible girl and studied well.

Having taken care of her husband day and night for months together, Devi’s mother had to return to her girls to make all the necessary arrangements for the groceries that had run out at home. She left her husband with close family relatives and came to Bangalore. On returning, none of the neighbours needed to ask her about the status of her husband’s health. The poor woman’s face communicated all the suffering that cancer brought with it, which she had been a witness to, for eight months. Enquiry, to these concerned neighbours was not a necessity. But a mere formality. That one and only night, when she was away from her husband for the first time in eight months, she got a call from her relatives in Chennai. Her husband had passed away.



Devi’s mother cried. She cried. She fell. She hit herself frantically. Her only support, her only partner, a man she always thought would be a part of her life, was gone. But more importantly, the father of her two young daughters was gone. And poverty never does much to comfort a soul in such a desperate situation. She didn’t know what she was going to do alone. So she cried. And cried till everyone heard her. Till she would faint.

Devi and her sister couldn’t comprehend what was going on. They were told that their dad had passed away. They saw their mother cry in pain. They felt sorry for her. But they didn’t know what it all meant really. The tenderness of their age wouldn’t let their innocence disappear. Not yet. So the two girls just looked on as the adults went about doing what had to be done.

Devi’s father was given his last rites. The two girls played hopscotch at the funeral home. Relatives and family friends could only pity the little ones.

A few months later, Devi returned home at noon with an assistant from school. Her mother wondered why she was home so early. The assistant smiled and said, “It’s all good news. Your little girl has become a woman now.” The mother, overjoyed at what she had heard, held her daughter’s face. Seeing her husband in the eyes of her little girl, her eyes swelled with tears. “Her father would have been so happy had he been here now. He would have celebrated this in pomp”, she cried. Devi had just experienced womanhood for the first time in her life. She saw herself changing physically and it was not a pretty sight. She was confused if she was to cherish these changes or regret them. And for some reason, she felt insecure like never before. Insecure, scared, uncomfortable, confused. And the reminder about her dad’s absence by her mom at this hour, brought tears to Devi’s eyes.

Devi missed her dad.


A critique on the photo nazis’ critique.

Many times I have come across people on social media and of late, even mainstream media, complain about how every Tom, Harry and Dick today has an SLR or one of those cool cameras, whose features or function, they do not know, and yet they are prompt to click pictures and post it onto facebook. A lot of ideas come gushing through my head each time I hear this and so I thought, “why not go live about it!”

Unedited : A crane shot using my sony cybershot hx300


As someone who enjoys taking pictures frequently with her camera, I certainly take great offense each time someone ridicules my pastime in the above mentioned manner. After all, I live in a free country that guarantees me my right to pursue the kind of life I want to. And given that these photo nazis did not pay for my camera, I see no point in anyone having a problem with my hobby. Or with any photo enthusiast for that matter. However, one must be blind to not see the magic behind this ongoing phenomenon.

Unedited : Another one…

Until a few decades back, photography was a pastime only an informed few could afford, and yes, the elite too. But today anybody can call themselves an amateur photographer. It may look like the charm of photography is being taken away. But it is not so. Digital cameras are now easily available at prices that any middle class family can afford. Development in technology has enforced fresh perspectives to come to the fore; it has enforced more number of people to keep in touch with things that excite them. If capitalism is mass production and maximum profit, and if communism is everyone having equal access to all resources and enjoyment of opportunity through merit, technology today, is what plays cupid to communism and capitalism. (YEah, I don’t think there is going to be a third world war.)

Unedited : If any of you know this lovely insect, let me know what it’s called. The fellow is a natural.

This is a kind of decentralisation of power.Yes. No longer can only an elite few wear that intellectual mask through photography. Like only few men have a perspective of the world. Maybe that’s why the disgruntled men come up with such jealous remarks.

Unedited : And here is my favorite model of all times – The Sun.

That just opens the door for another idea. Is there anything known as talent? I don’t really think so. You see “talent” is one of those mind games that the world has been playing on people for long enough now. SImply put, talent is nothing but politics. You heard me. There is nothing that nobody can not do. Everyone can do everything. While some learn the trade quicker, others may take a while. That time taken to learn a skill, again depends on the personality of the individual – the likes, dislikes, etc. which is again just an illusion – a conditioning of the mind. It is not really you. So, to sum it up for you, talent is a word that society has been using to keep the rich people rich and poor people poor. IF a teacher uses the word, it is because the student is/not making her job easy for her. The same applies to photography. Like any skill, all it requires is the passion to learn and explore. Nothing else. The rest is just modern day casteism. Don’t buy it.

Simply Tagore.



I ask for a moment’s indulgence to sit by thy side. The works that I have in hand I will finish afterwards.





Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows no rest nor respite, and my work becomes an endless toil in a  shore less sea of toil.




Today the summer has come at my window with its sighs and murmurs; and the bees are plying their minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove.




Now it is time to sit quiet, face to face with thee, and to sing dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure.


The Dance of Light.


    As infinite number of photons continue to bombard my abode, the tall standing saints continue to soak in their energy.


Despite knowing that this is probably their final dose for the day, they continue to simply absorb the tremendous energy that is being thrown at them. No sorrow of separation. No fear of the point of no return. They simply stand with closed eyes and perfect bliss, consuming, savouring every ounce of the juice of life within themselves.


Blessed are those who can witness this dance of life. Cursed are those who simply can not see for it happens at the windows and door steps of all, for all to see. Bhairavi couldn’t contain her joy on seeing it. She was full of ‘surrender’. “Who would worry about rebirth if this sight could be witnessed every single day of one’s life”, she wondered. Lost in the magnificence of what she saw, she no longer knew which is God – the source of life or life?