Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a new outlook on tech companies and cybersecurity. The Hollywood actor, who plays NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in the new film Snowden (out Friday), says the role has changed him.
"I pay more attention to what exactly the big tech companies are doing," he said in a Reddit AMA on Thursday, in response to a question about the NSA leaks. "To their credit, a lot of them have really stepped up in the wake of Snowden's disclosures to make our hardware and software more secure. But, for example, when they ask me to agree to their terms of service, I now always ask myself, 'how does this company make money?'"
Gordon-Levitt added that he now uses Signal, an encrypted phone and messaging app, to keep his personal data safe.
Directed by Academy Award-winner Oliver Stone, Snowden follows the former government contractor as he discovers -- and ultimately exposes -- illegal NSA surveillance programs. The film has received mixed reviews, including criticism that Stone is far too lenient with the truth. He fictionalized several revelations, including that the government planted malware in power plants, dams and hospitals in Mexico, Germany, Brazil and Austria, according to Wired.
The film celebrates Snowden in many ways, and comes at a critical juncture during his exile in Russia. Earlier this week, the ACLU, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International launched a campaign to pressure the Obama administration to pardon Snowden, which would allow him return to U.S. soil without facing criminal charges. It's highly unlikely he would be pardoned after the U.S. presidential elections in November, given that Hillary Clinton has insisted he ought to "face the music," (i.e., criminal charges) while Donald Trump has gone so far as to imply he should be executed for treason.
Gordon-Levitt, for his part, says that Snowden should be pardoned, and commends his courage. "I don't think it's unpatriotic to ask questions about whether the American government is doing the right thing," the actor continued. "In fact, I think it's patriotic. It's part of what makes the U.S.A. a great country, part of why I'm proud to be from here: We have the right to ask those questions."
The whistleblower himself echoed this sentiment, in a recent interview with the New York Times .
"Being patriotic doesn't simply mean agreeing with your government," said Snowden. "Supporting your government and attempting to defend their values doesn't simply mean saying yes. Being willing to disagree, particularly in a risky manner, is actually what we need more of today."