Stephen Fry: Mass surveillance by government spy agencies is 'squalid and rancid' - People - News - The Independent

Stephen Fry: Mass surveillance by government spy agencies is 'squalid and rancid'

The QI host made the comments in a pre-recorded message for a Don't Spy On Us conference

Actor and comedian Stephen Fry has condemned the “disgraceful” and “duplicitous” mass surveillance of communications by spy agencies GCHQ and the NSA.

The QI host, who is himself a prolific tweeter, said the extent to which governments seek to control the internet is “very depressing”.

He said that there was “something squalid and rancid about being spied on” and that it was "duplicitous and deeply wrong" to play on people’s fears about terrorism as a means to spy on citizens.

Mr Fry made the comments in a pre-recorded video message played at a conference organised by the Don't Spy On Us campaign at Shoreditch Town Hall in east London to mark the first anniversary of revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Documents released by Mr Snowden detailed a comprehensive network of web surveillance involving the US-based NSA and the UK's GCHQ, with world leaders and members of the public the victims of snooping.

Mr Fry, 56, said: “The idea of having your letters read by somebody, your telegrams, your faxes, your postcards intercepted, was always considered one of the meanest, most beastly things a human being could do, and for a government to do, without good cause.

“Using the fear of terrorism that we all have, the fear of the unknown that we all share, the fear of enemies that hate us, is a duplicitous and deeply wrong means of excusing something as base as spying on the citizens of your own country.”

The broadcaster said GCHQ and NSA cooperated together to “read and intercept everything we send”.

“It's enough that corporations know so much about us and our spending habits, our eating habits, our sexual preferences, everything else,” he said.

“But that a government, something that we elect, something that should be looking out for our best interests, should presume without asking to take information that we swap, we hope privately, between ourselves is frankly disgraceful.”

Mr Fry claimed people such as him with the “highest hopes” for the internet since it started “haven't lost our optimism”.

“We still think the ability to call our masters to account, to find things out, is incredibly important,” he said.

“But it is very depressing how much governments wish to control the internet and it's up to us to speak out about it.

“And it's up to the real leaders and masters... the ones we trust and know are on the side of freedom, people like Sir Tim Berners-Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web), to lend their voice to a campaign to urge governments everywhere in the free world to step back from the brink of totalitarianism that is threatening to engulf us.”

Other speakers at the event included Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and a number of experts in technology, security and human rights.

Mr Wales said: “The tide is beginning to turn as the public comes to understand just how broken the surveillance state is.2

Mr Snowden, a former NSA employee has since fled to Russia in order to avoid extradition to the United States, where he is facing espionage charges.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week