"Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying," Snowden said in Channel 4's annual Alternative Christmas Message to British viewers. It follows Queen Elizabeth II's traditional Christmas broadcast.
Channel 4's alternative address tradition, begun in 1993, has included addresses from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then the Iranian president; Ali G, a character played by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen; an injured Afghan war veteran; and a survivor of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In 2004, the cartoon character Marge from "The Simpsons" gave the greeting.
Snowden, a former NSA contractor, is living in asylum in Russia after leaking U.S. surveillance secrets to the news media earlier this year. He is wanted in the United States on espionage charges.
In his brief message, Snowden asserted that the types of surveillance imagined in George Orwell's "1984" are "nothing compared to what we have available today."
"We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person," he said. "A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all."
"The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it," he said.