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June 11, 2013

Edward Snowden the Invisible


Edward Snowden on Hong Kong hotel bed sleuths hotel and room used for Guardian interview

screenshot – Edward Snowden Guardian Interview

The house once rented by Edward Snowden sits empty and is for sale in Waipahu, Hawaii. 

The Hawaii rental

Lindsay Mills, 28, is the girlfriend of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Photos of the woman identified as the girlfriend surfacing now (12)

What is fascinating and unprecedented, at least as long as I’ve been doing the Bag, is the anonymity of Edward Snowden.

Given the aggressive and no-holds-barred nature of personality politics, gossip and online dish, not to mention the era of social networking and personal branding, how is it possible that almost three full internet days have gone by without a single photo of Snowden showing up online (outside of the images captured by the Guardian in a Hong Kong hotel room related to his interview)?

What you see above is what appears so far — at least, Google Image and Google News-wise. What makes the anonymity so interesting, of course, is what it says or merely suggests about Mr. Snowden. Has he led that low key a life that there aren’t photos — any photos — of him out there anywhere? Or is there something more intentional to it? (Like being — or becoming — invisible was part of the job description?)

And then beyond Snowden, this absence of public imagery — or, by this point, any found imagery either — makes for an interesting reflection about identity, and standards for presence or absence when it comes to how accessible we all are in the world of Big Media and Big Brother.

(11:37 am – slightly edited.)

(photo/screenshot 1 & 3: Ewen MacAskill/The Guardian/REUTERS. photo 2: photo 4: Eugene Tanner photography via NY Daily News; photo 5: Inside Edition via NY Daily News)

  • black_dog_barking

    Has he led that low key a life that there aren’t photos — any photos — of him out there anywhere? Or is there something more intentional to it? – See more at:

    Or is this a young man wise and sensitive to the privacy-invasive ways of social media who made informed choices that kept his mug and his private life out of the Eye? Certainly can’t rule that out either.

  • Gasho

    I have a friend who went to work in the area of cyber security. I know he had some kind of clearance because I was asked for info for his background check. He’s 100% invisible online. His wife loves Facebook.. but she can’t post a single pic of him. My understanding is that if you are in that industry, you become invisible so that nobody can use your online information to coerce you into giving up access to whatever it is you’re paid to secure. My friend is a fun loving guy.. and he takes it totally seriously. I’m sure Snowden’s situation is similar.. only he is ex-CIA — so take all of that and multiply it by X.

  • bks3bks
  • marie

    I envy him his invisibility. It’s a conundrum: how to be active online and yet not leave traces (or big footprints) of your identity all over the place. I amass ridiculous numbers of new “passwords” per year for this or that site I use. It’s not so much for security, is it? It’s more for convenient tracking. * sigh*
    *goes off to sign in so I can comment*

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