He's had to flee his homeland, seeking temporary asylum in Russia.
And while some revere him, others have branded him public enemy No. 1.
A terrorist, even.
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Still, when asked if he would do it all over again, National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden replied without hesitation: "Absolutely."
"Regardless of what happens to me, this is something we had a right to," he said to loud applause from the 3,000 people gathered at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, to hear him speak.
"I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution," Snowden said, speaking remotely from Russia. "And I saw the Constitution was being violated on a massive scale."
Snowden urged audience members at the tech festival to help "fix" the US government's surveillance of its citizens, which he claimed is "setting fire to the future of the internet."
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His image broadcast on video screens with a copy of the US Constitution as a backdrop, Snowden detailed what he would change about the system.
"We need public oversight ... some way for trusted public figures to advocate for us," he said. "We need a watchdog that watches Congress, because if we're not informed, we can't consent to these (government) policies."
Audience members gave Snowden a standing ovation when he finished:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressed SXSW on Saturday, also by teleconference, from London, telling audience members "national security reporters are a new kind of refugee."