Web inventor slams UK monitoring plans as 'destruction of human rights'

Tim Berners-Lee, the Web inventor, has come out with a scathing attack on the UK's 'draconian' plans to monitor in real-time UK web and email traffic, and Skype and phone calls.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

"Bop, bop; thwack."

Like out of a Batman comic, that's the sound of Tim Berners-Lee punching a hole in the UK government's plan to roll out legislation later this year, which would enable the UK's intelligence services to blanket surveil Web and email traffic, phone calls, and even Skype records.

In a nutshell, the UK wants its electronic eavesdropping intelligence agency GCHQ to process in "real-time" every shred of UK residents' online data in a bid to prevent serious crime and terrorism.

Berners-Lee, credited with inventing the World Wide Web, who also serves an a digital advisor to Downing Street on how to make government data more open and accessible to the public, spoke to the Guardian about the UK's plans, and frankly --- how much he disagreed with them.

He noted how the UK government would be able to collate a lot more data on its citizens, by piecing together their browsing history and search queries.

A similar move by Google was heavily criticised for after it recently consolidated its 70-plus privacy policies into one mega-policy. In doing so, it would allow the search company to collate information it has on users into one pool, which can be used by advertisers --- though personal data is anonymised --- to better target ads in users' directions:

"You get to know every detail, you get to know, in a way, more intimate details about their life than any person that they talk to because often people will confide in the internet as they find their way through medical websites … or as an adolescent finds their way through a website about homosexuality, wondering what they are and whether they should talk to people about it."

"The government" spying on the Internet hits his top spot for keeping him awake at night. Having said that, the U.S. has been not-so-secretly spying on the global Web for years with various NSA programmes, along with dozens of other intelligence-driven nations, so he must not have slept well since he first invented the Web over twenty years ago.

He added:

"The idea that we should routinely record information about people is obviously very dangerous. It means that there will be information around which could be stolen, which can be acquired through corrupt officials or corrupt operators, and [could be] used, for example, to blackmail people in the government or people in the military."

It's likely to cause further headaches for the Home Secretary Theresa May, who is spearheading the new policy set to be announced next month. May claims that "suspected terrorists, paedophiles and serious criminals" would be targeted by the propsals, and not ordinary citizens. Having said that, anyone "suspected" of a crime remains an ordinary citizens until they are proven guilty in court; at least in my criminological opinion.

Berners-Lee went further to outright say:

"...the most important thing to do is to stop the bill as it is at the moment".

You can't really get any more direct than that.

The Web inventor also added his two-pennyworth on social networks, stating that users should be able to "get their data back from the Internet," and how it should be presented back to users who request it. ZDNet's Emil Protalinski has more.

Image credit: Silvio Tanaka/Flickr;Article source: Guardian.


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