Edward Snowden Says OpenAI Just Performed a “Calculated Betrayal of the Rights of Every Person on Earth”

"You've Been Warned"

Last week, ChatGPT creator OpenAI announced that it had appointed retired US Army General and former National Security Administration (NSA) Director Paul Nakasone, who also helmed the military's cybersecurity-focused Cyber Command unit, to its board.

"General Nakasone's unparalleled experience in areas like cybersecurity," OpenAI board chair Bret Taylor said in a statement, "will help guide OpenAI in achieving its mission of ensuring artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity."

But not everyone is thrilled about Nakasone's new role at the AI firm, which will also see the former general seated at OpenAI's Safety and Security Committee. The NSA has long been associated with surveillance of US citizens, and AI-embedded technologies are already renewing and escalating existing surveillance concerns. With that in mind, it might be unsurprising that former NSA employee and famed whistleblower Edward Snowden is among the OpenAI appointment's outspoken detractors.

"They've gone full mask off: do not ever trust OpenAI or its products," Snowden — emphasis his — wrote in a Friday post to X-formerly-Twitter, adding that "there's only one reason for appointing" an NSA director "to your board."

"This is a willful, calculated betrayal of the rights of every person on earth," he continued. "You've been warned."

Transparency Worries

Snowden wasn't the only prominent cybersecurity figure to raise an eyebrow at the OpenAI news.

"I do think that the biggest application of AI is going to be mass population surveillance," Johns Hopkins University cryptography professor Matthew Green tweeted, "so bringing the former head of the NSA into OpenAI has some solid logic behind it."

Nakasone's installation comes after a series of high-profile OpenAI departures that included prominent safety researchers, in addition to the total dissolution of OpenAI's now-defunct "Superalignment" safety team. OpenAI's replacement for that team, the Safety and Security Committee, is now helmed by company CEO Sam Altman, who has come under fire in recent weeks for business practices that involved silencing former employees. It's also worth noting that OpenAI has routinely drawn criticism for — again — its lack of transparency regarding the data used to train its many AI models.

But at the same time, per Axios, many on Capitol Hill see Nakasone's OpenAI assensure as a security win. And Nakasone, for his part, said in a statement that OpenAI's "dedication to its mission aligns closely with my own values and experience in public service."

"I look forward to contributing to OpenAI's efforts," he added, "to ensure artificial general intelligence is safe and beneficial to people around the world."

More on AI and surveillance: Microsoft Admits That Maybe Surveiling Everything You Do on Your Computer Isn’t a Brilliant Idea