Tim Berners-Lee calls for an online bill of rights

Tim Berners-Lee calls for an online bill of rights

Summary: The British founder of the world wide web has called for an "Internet Users Bill of Rights".

SHARE:
TOPICS: Security, Privacy
19

A bill of rights should be created to govern the internet in the wake of revelations about the depth of government surveillance, the inventor of the world wide web says.

Tim Berners-Lee made the proposal on Wednesday as part of the "web we want" campaign for an open internet, exactly 25 years after he first presented a paper with plans for the World Wide Web.

"We need a global constitution — a bill of rights," he told The Guardian.

"Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what's happening at the back door, we can't have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities, and diversity of culture.

"It's not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it."

The campaign calls on web users around the world to draft an "Internet Users Bill of Rights for your country, for your region or for all".

Berners-Lee has constantly campaigned for fewer controls on the web, and has praised former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden after he revealed details of how the US government collects masses of online data.

Berners-Lee warned that people's rights were "being infringed more and more on every side" and that internet users were becoming complacent about their loss of freedoms.

"I want to use the 25th anniversary for us all to do that, to take the web back into our own hands and define the web we want for the next 25 years," he said.

Berners-Lee conceived the web almost 25 years ago in his spare time at Geneva-based CERN, Europe's top particle physics lab.

Topics: Security, Privacy

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

19 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Again? Seriously that horse is out of the barn. Think google's going to

    stop tracking you and selling your data? Yeah think again. There's already great alternatives to google properties and services if you value your privacy. Where was this bill of rights 2 decades ago when you were relevant Tim?
    Johnny Vegas
    • Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the world

      understood the difference between a right and a privilege.
      1,2,3
      • Agreed

        Rights are moral issues; privileges are merely legal ones.
        John L. Ries
    • He's still relevant

      Last I checked he was still in charge of W3C and even if not, his stature continues to give his statements a world wide audience. If the Nobel Peace Prize Committee followed its own rules, he'd probably would have been awarded one at least a decade ago.

      Regardless, he's right, and that's what's most important. What he asks won't be easy and won't be universal (at least in the short run), but should be pursued.
      John L. Ries
    • that's a choice

      that's a choice though, swap free services for adverts. You don't have to choose that. It's a world away from secret recording of what should have been private communications.

      I'm guessing you watch some TV channels that have adverts. The business principle is the same.
      Mytheroo
  • Bill of Web Rights

    Yes this finally needs be done absolutely. T his thing that google MS et all came up with couldn't be taken seriously I believe. Number one on the list should be free unimpaired access., there should never be censorship and or impaired access to the web as a Right. Absolutely. All else is secondary
    to this proposition in my opinion.
    timeecho
    • The hard part...

      ...is deciding what rights to recognize, how to enforce them, and who is to do the enforcing. Sir Timothy's proposal is a good starting point, but this *will* be contentious.
      John L. Ries
      • That's an understatement

        "this *will* be contentious"

        Yes, especially since there is no current right to unfettered Internet access. That concept was dreamed up by people who want to steal songs and movies, trade child porn, steal trade secrets, and steal money from banks, companies, and private citizens.

        That's why Berners-Lee's contention that we need to create a Magna Carta is consistent, because those rights do not currently exist. And I vehemently disagree with him that only government spying should be considered. If we are going to go through the pain of an Internet bill of rights, the right to be secure from predatory corporations and cyber-criminals had better be included.
        saucymugwump
        • Those aren't the only reasons

          People really don't want to be spied upon, and a number of governments are much more interested in suppressing supposedly subversive communications than they are in suppressing pornography or enforcing copyright laws.

          Then we get the ISPs that want to treat their customers like merchandise.
          John L. Ries
        • See previous post...

          ...on the subject of rights and privileges. The two are frequently confused and conflated.
          John L. Ries
  • The above article left some things out

    Berners-Lee was actually channeling his inner Bruce Schneier, i.e. government spying bad, corporate spying/tracking okay. Contrary to some comments here, he was not bemoaning the corporate giants -- Google, Facebook, Acxiom, Experian, etc. -- who hoover up our personal data as part of their business model. He was mainly complaining about government spying.

    Read the Reuters' article "Web founder Berners-Lee calls for online 'Magna Carta' to protect users" to find the below:

    "Are we going to continue on the road and just allow the governments to do more and more and more control - more and more surveillance?" he told BBC Radio on Wednesday.

    "Or are we going to set up something like a Magna Carta for the world wide web and say, actually, now it's so important, so much part of our lives, that it becomes on a level with human rights?" he said, referring to the 1215 English charter.

    While acknowledging the state needed the power to tackle criminals using the Internet, he has called for greater oversight over spy agencies such Britain's GCHQ and the NSA, and over any organizations collecting data on private individuals.

    He has previously spoken in support of Snowden, saying his actions were "in the public interest".
    saucymugwump
    • government == bad

      currently, I don't think google have the power to lock people up and torture them indefinitely.

      The government does.

      As for Snowden, he didn't agree to break the law with his employer, he swore to uphold the constitution, and his employers were breaking that constitution.
      Irrelevant of "public interest", he had a legal duty to report them.
      Mytheroo
      • That would be true...

        ...at least until corporations are recognized as sovereign entities fully entitled to punish "wrongdoers" in whatever fashion they see fit; or governments are so weak that they do it anyway.
        John L. Ries
        • But that doesn't necessarily mean...

          ...that data furnished by customers and employees to private businesses should be treated as the property of the business with which he may do as he sees fit; or that businesses should have the unlimited privilege of spying on private citizens for whatever reason.
          John L. Ries
      • Brits should not comment on nuances of U.S. law

        "I don't think google have the power to lock people up and torture them indefinitely"

        That makes government bad and Google less bad. And that was my point, that ignoring the damage that corporations do is to wear blinders.

        "he didn't agree to break the law with his employer ... he had a legal duty to report them"

        Snowden had a Top Secret security clearance, which meant he signed paperwork that informed him that disclosures would be illegal and prosecuted under espionage statutes. We have whistleblower statutes for that sort of thing. And then he traveled to Russia (via China), the land of Vladimir "Crimea river" Putin.
        saucymugwump
        • Why not?

          I'm an American and have never been shy about commenting on other countries' constitutions or laws.
          John L. Ries
  • How about just a plain old Bill of Rights?

    Why be specific to the Internet? Human rights worldwide are being routinely trampled on daily in all aspects of our lives, most notably with government-run healthcare. Why should we have a Bill of Rights for the Internet when we seem to have no rights in any other aspect of our lives?
    FDanconia
  • The first line in that "online bill of rights", should be...

    "Keep the damn UN out of it".

    Otherwise, I'm ready to start hearing some proposals for those rights.

    Right #1: a person owns all information and data and he/she enters into a data gathering form, and all other data that is part of a communications protocol that the user is not aware of.

    Right #2: a person has the right to pull any and all information that is collected, with his/her knowledge, and without his/her knowledge.

    Right #3: no company and no government, can collect information and data from a user, without authorization by that user; EULA terms won't be enough "permission".

    Right #4: any collection of information and data, shall be in accordance to all the rights and privileges that are afforded to that person via his/her country's constitution, including any bill or rights; violations of a person's rights can lead to prosecution and penalties.
    adornoe
    • How shall it be enforced?

      Courts? or some other means?

      If we're keeping the UN out it, then there could still be a treaty, but the ICJ wouldn't be available to arbitrate disputes between states; but local courts would still be available to arbitrate disputes between individuals and corporations.
      John L. Ries