Unless they were citizens of a country under a dictatorship or an authoritarian regime, it used to be only tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists who worried about government-led mass surveillance. The rest, knowing that as citizens of a democratic nation they were entitled to their privacy, assumed that their elected leaders would be respectful of that fundamental right. But Edward Snowden's revelations gave sight to a scary reality where governments violate their citizen's rights with blatant disregard.
The United States of America, a country that perhaps most prides itself on embodying the values of 'freedom', conducted the most rampant mass surveillance in history with impunity. Surprisingly, it was an American citizen, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor who outed his nation's transgressions against its own people.
When Edward Snowden discovered the invasive and massive scale of the surveillance that NSA was conducting, he considered it his patriotic duty to inform the American people of the crimes they were being unknowingly subjected to. That too from the very people who were sworn to protect them. So, he leaked damning information about the US intelligence's extensive phone and internet surveillance and fled to Russia; giving up a comfortable life in his home country for a cause he believed in.
Today, as Edward Snowden turns 34, the US still continues its attempt to extradite and prosecute him on espionage charges. But he continues to fight for freedom in all its forms and this is what he has had to say about why he did what he did: