Jimmy Wales, Tim Berners-Lee slam UK's internet snooping plans

Jimmy Wales, Tim Berners-Lee slam UK's internet snooping plans

Summary: Wikipedia co-founder Wales has come out against the UK government's draft Communications Data Bill, while inventor of the web Tim Berners-Lee has raised concerns about legislation that allows the government to gather data on its citizens.


Jimmy Wales has publicly voiced his opposition to the UK government's draft Communications Data Bill.

Jimmy Wales
Jimmy Wales. Image: Wikipedia

The bill, which was put before parliament earlier this year, forces internet service providers to retain data on all online communications made by UK citizens, including SMS, Facebook and Twitter messages.

Wikipedia co-founder Wales, who gave evidence to a parliamentary select committee on the bill on Wednesday, described the legislation as "technologically incompetent", and said it would lead to more people turning to encryption to avoid being tracked.

"It is not the sort of thing I'd expect from a western democracy. It is the kind of thing I would expect from the Iranians or the Chinese and it would be detected immediately by the internet industry," he told MPs and peers, according to The Guardian.

Wikipedia will begin encrypting its connections should the bill be made into law, the paper reports.

TBL concerns

Inventor of the web Tim Berners-Lee has also expressed his fears over legislation that allows Whitehall to gather greater amounts of information on citizens.

"It is the kind of thing I would expect from the Iranians or the Chinese and it would be detected immediately by the internet industry" — Tim Berners-Lee

Berners-Lee told The Times: "In Britain, like in the US, there has been a series of bills that would give government very strong powers to, for example, collect data. I am worried about that."  

The UK was rated third in Berners-Lee's Web Index, unveiled yesterday, which ranks 61 countries around the world according to the impact and reach of the internet. 

Should privacy-threatening bills make it through parliament, they could affect the UK's standing in the rankings, according to Berners-Lee.

"If the UK introduces Draconian legislation that allows the government to block websites or to snoop on people, which decreases privacy, in future indexes they may find themselves farther down the list," he said at the launch of the index.

Topics: Government UK, Legal, Networking, Privacy

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


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Non-Issue in US election unfortunatly

    At least in the UK this seems to be an issue for public debate. On this side of the pond I have not heard the major candidates being asked a security vs privacy type question. Like with abortion those "Libertarians" seem to be making an exception to the "get government off my back" mantra. If you are running Obama is a secret communist conspirator would not the security state be used as proof? And those "progressives" that were just aghast at the Bush era privacy violations are stone cold silent about Obama's violations which are a lot worse in quality and quantity. God help the U.S.A.
  • Encryption will be the problem..

    Unfortunately theworld isn't populated by lovely charitable people who would do no wrong, so I'll accept that measures have to be made to resuce the scope for anonymity online; it's been aparent for years we've experienced the old west of internet, and now policing and rules must come in to an extent to hinder organised (and disorganised) crime. The problem is that this bill is put together by MPs that, are at best naive, realistically outherwise motivated, and it's a swing and a miss.

    I don't like the idea of the GCHQ any more than the average person, but I accept that this syle of monitoring is unfortunately, required in some form or other.

    The point is that collecting personal and private data without warrent must be wrong and opposed. It is one thing to scan thousands of communications for "bomb", "shoot", "attack", etc. It is quite another to record all communications and collect that data without cause.

    You're caught on CCTV all day whilst about town. You might not like it, but someone probaly watched you secretly scoff down that MacDonalds on the way home to avoid eating the finely prepared meal that had been left for you. However adding audio to that footage by bugging you as well as adding in the text message telling the wife that the meeting over ran so you'll 'just get something on the way' is going too far.

    When they go too far you have to protest. It's like Blair's anti-terror laws; you can't widen the goal posts because you can't score, you have to improve the team.
  • This would break most ISPs

    The kind of monitoring being described would require more hard drive space than exists in the entire UK. A similar plan in Canada would have required storage capacity exceeding what is available in the western Hemisphere. And a similar plan in the U.S. would have required storage capacity greater than what exists on the entire planet. Simply put, these plans are not viable.

    The important thing is not a need for an ISP to store the actual data, but the ability of police to track data back to its originating host. IPv6 should do this nicely, but the world isn't entirely IPv6 yet.