Edward Snowden did the world a favour by revealing the scale of surveillance by governments, according to the inventor of the internet.
Tim Berners-Lee said he believed the former CIA agent had behaved responsibly in leaking material about web and phone monitoring.
Mr Snowden delivered Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message yesterday, telling the public: “Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us – 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.”
And guest editing BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Berners-Lee said was asked if he thought Mr Snowden had “done us all a favour”.
“In a word, yes,” he replied. “Was there anything else he could have done? Was there any other channel he could have gone through? I think it has been established that there was not.”
Mr Berners-Lee went on: “Has he gone to the trouble of doing it as a journalist or with a journalist to make sure that the data he is putting out there in public is carefully selected so as not to harm individuals, so as not to do unnecessary harm to countries, so as to make the point that he needs to make without doing any more damage?
“Now, I think that the process he has been through... has been there.”
Mr Berners-Lee said he thought Mr Snowden should be regarded as a “really important part of the system”.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, who is preparing a report on protection of the right to privacy, told the programme it was “very important that governments now want to discuss the matters of mass surveillance and right to privacy in a serious way”.
Ms Pillay, the first non-white to serve as a high court judge in South Africa, said: “I see how combined and collective action by everybody can end serious violations of human rights and really that experience inspires me to go on and address the issue of internet (privacy) which right now is extremely troubling because the revelations of surveillance have implications for human rights.”