Does Mass Surveillance Really Prevent Terrorism?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt uses his "Snowden" inspiration to find out.

The government’s surveillance tactics have been heavily scrutinized in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA ― but to what effect? Does keeping a watchful eye on gobs of American citizens actually help in preventing terrorism?

Those are the questions posed in “That’s What She Said,” the third installment in a new documentary series Joseph Gordon-Levitt made with the ACLU. Probing whether technology helps or hurts democracy, the five short films are premiering this week on The Huffington Post, ahead of September’s “Snowden” release. Monday’s video offered an overview of the project, and Tuesday’s explored the way social media helped a Pakistani woman end election rigging.

For Gordon-Levitt personally, playing Snowden got him thinking not only about the government’s role in spying, but in corporations’. “I do wish that we ― all of us who use Facebook and Google and companies like that ― were more aware of exactly what’s going on and how these companies make their money, because the way they make money is they collect data about you all day ...,” Gordon-Levitt said during a Facebook Live interview on Monday. “We all just click to agree to those terms of service whenever we sign up for any social media account or anything like that because it would be absolutely impossible for us to actually read those contracts. Only a professional lawyer would be able to actually read the contracts and understand the things that we agree to when we check those boxes. Maybe that’s not right. Maybe that’s not how it should go.”

Watch “That’s What She Said” above for an in-depth look at mass surveillance, and check out our full chat with Gordon-Levitt about the documentary series, “Snowden,” his career and more below. We’ll premiere the final two short films on Thursday and Friday at 12 p.m. ET.

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