Firstly, compliments on writing such a nice informative and concise article – it was a pleasure to read.
What has Snowden revealed that we did not know already? As I live nowadays in Germany I experienced a German viewpoint of the affair. If the politicians are to be believed it seems that most knew nothing about NSA or GCHQ and their activities let alone their own BND. (It's not as if information is not available on the subject in German!) One heard everything from “It is against the German Constitution and we must sue the USA” to “we should offer the hero Snowden asylum in Germany”. Fortunately it does not appear to have remained an election issue since the leaders of the major parties were, at least to some extent, aware of the activities.
The Snowden affair's has, however, wider implications in that it has provided ready fodder for those who “demand” that Big Data, for example telephone call connection data, should not be held longer than three months. Such a limitation would result in it being very difficult (if not impossible) to undertake an effective post event analysis to any great depth. I wonder if the NSU (National Socialist Underground) members could have succeeded in committing so many murders over a 10 year period if comprehensive communications data had been both retained and, of course, properly analyzed.
The problem is always who controls the stored data and how is it used. The more that is retained, the more it needs protection from unauthorized access. However, if terrorism/serious crime is to be effectively combated then information must be collected, retained for a longish period (several years) and be accessible for analysis.
Incidentally, I suspect that the people who complain most about the collection and storage of the Big Data will be the first to complain when there is an “event” and the “authorities” (whoever they be) cannot effectively investigate it due to lack of data.
More information about text formats