Citizen Lab Research Fellow Jon Penney’s research on the chilling effect of the Snowden revelations was featured in the January-February 2017 edition of Harvard Magazine, in an article exploring challenges to privacy in the United States. Edward Snowden’s 2013 NSA revelations were found to precipitate a sudden decline in Wikipedia searches for terrorism-related key words, including ‘Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Dirty bomb, chemical weapon, and Jihad.’

Penney argues that this is the result of self-censorship, a worrying trend that deters people from exercising their rights to read, think, and communicate privately. He linked this to a broader threat to political discourse. Other experts commenting on his work in the article, and threats to privacy more broadly, include Bruce Schneier, a security expert who is also a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Centre for Internet for Internet and Society. He remarked: “The fact that you won’t do things, that you will self-censor, are the worst effects of pervasive surveillance. Governments, of course, know this. China bases its surveillance on this fact. It wants people to self-censor, because it knows it can’t stop everybody. The idea is that if you don’t know where the line is, and the penalty for crossing it is severe, you will stay far away from it.”

Read the full article in Harvard Magazine.