The Edward Snowden revelations about government surveillance of private individuals resulted in 10 major issues of public interest being brought to the fore, the editor of the Guardian has told a high-profile panel convened to discuss internet privacy.
Alan Rusbridger, who published the Snowden leaks, was joined by Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia), Sir David Omand (former director of GCHQ) and George Howarth MP (Labour member of the Intelligence and Security Committee) among others for the Labour Campaign for Human Rights (LCHR) event.
Following the LCHR chair Andrew Noakes' introduction, Alan Rusbridger took to the microphone to disclose 10 major issues in the public interest that he felt had been brought to the fore by the NSA leaks.
1) The issue of consent
Are the people whose data is being collected, stored and analysed consenting to this activity? Is collecting data without their consent lawful?
Is it okay to collect this data without parliament's consent? Every time parliament has considered these large databases it has said "no" to them.
The laws applied to the security services are not modern and not applicable to the age of the internet. We have "analogue laws in a digital age", Rusbridger mused.
He made the point that a US judge ruled the phone metadata harvesting programme was an "arbitrary invasion" of personal privacy without judicial approval.
3) Involvement of the private sector
The involvement of private companies in collecting metadata is a huge concern and very dependent on the infrastructure of private companies.
Have the companies acted within the law or have they acted beyond their legal remit?
4) Security of the internet
Rusbridger claimed that the security of the internet had been deliberately weakened by US and UK security services to achieve their aims.
5) Risk to the digital economy
What will the knock-on effect be to consumers in the digital economy because of these leaks? Will people begin to reject tech company products?
The leaks have undoubtedly had an impact on this global sector despite a lack of coverage, he said.
6) Relations with friendly countries and peaceful institutions
How do we view our relations with other countries and institutions that we are members of? Who can and can't we trust? The best example, according to Rusbridger, was the bugging of Angela Merkel's phone.
7) Whether spy agencies have been truthful and lawful
Have the agencies on both sides of the Atlantic been 100% honest in what they have told us? Do the secrets stop at the leaked documents or is there more to be discovered?
Have they behaved within the legal framework? Rusbridger said that it appeared that some things told to Congress were not true and that a number of internal NSA violations had emerged.
"This is a massive invasion of privacy, of all our privacies," he said. He said Sir Malcolm Rifkind's remark that the intelligence community was not listening to private phone calls, as if the collection of metadata had no significance, was insulting.
Rusbridger continued on metadata, saying that it was a much more efficient way of capturing details of somebody's life. It pinpointed the user's location, friends, and even what you were thinking when you used a search engine.
Is a mass database of collected metadata even necessary? Is it effective? For example, have terrorist attacks been prevented because of it? Where is the evidence of this? He again quoted Leon who said that there was no evidence that such databases had thwarted terrorist attacks.
Can these databases be protected? There have already been two massive leaks by Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. What is to stop the next whistleblower just dumping the material on the internet instead of going to the Guardian?
Who oversees these programs? Washington and Whitehall must have the resources to reach to the truth of the matter and prevent illegal invasions of privacy.
"This is a massive responsibility that that committee [the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament - ISC - which oversees UK spy agencies] has".
He said it was crucial that MPs got to grips with the subject. It was disheartening to see the silence in Britain over the leaks compared to the outcry in mainland Europe and the US.