Edward Snowden, the man who leaked the National Security Agency data collection programs, said Monday the act of mass surveillance is “setting fire to the future of the Internet.”

Snowden, speaking via satellite feed (in front of a green-screen display of the U.S. Constitution) to a panel at the annual South by Southwest conference, urged attendees to fight back against the spy programs and remember that more countries than the U.S. are involved.

“The NSA, the sort of global mass surveillance that’s occurring in all of these countries, not just the U.S. — and it’s important to remember that this is a global issue — they’re setting fire to the future of the Internet,” Snowden said. “And the people who are in this room now — you guys are all the firefighters. And we need you to help us fix it.”

Snowden discussed the challenges of maintaining liberty while still engaging in intelligence gathering.

“The primary challenge that mass surveillance faces from any agency, any government in the world is not just, how do you collect the communications as they cross the wires as they sort of find their way to the global network, but how do you interpret them, how do you understand them, how do you [inaudible] them back out and penalize them?”

Snowden’s suggestion was end-to-end encryption, which limits communication to just the party sending and the party receiving information.

“And the result of that is a more constitutional, more [inaudible] sort of intelligence-gathering model, law-enforcement model,” Snowden said. “Where if they want to gather somebody’s communications, they have to target them specifically. They can’t just target everybody all the time.”