Tim Berners-Lee Says UK's Net Spying Plans Would Be 'Destruction Of Human Rights'

from the and-he-should-know dept

Not content with inventing the Web and then giving it away, Tim Berners-Lee remains highly active in warning about the threats the Internet and its users face. Most recently he has taken on the British government’s disproportionate plans to store information about every email sent and Web page visited in the UK:

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who serves as an adviser to the government on how to make public data more accessible, says the extension of the state’s surveillance powers would be a “destruction of human rights” and would make a huge amount of highly intimate information vulnerable to theft or release by corrupt officials. In an interview with the Guardian, Berners-Lee said: “The amount of control you have over somebody if you can monitor internet activity is amazing.”

What’s particularly useful about his latest intervention is not just the authority with which he speaks on this subject, but the specificity of his warning:

“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. We open ourselves out, if we store this information, to it being abused.”

That is, even leaving aside concerns about crucially important issues such as privacy and total surveillance, the UK plans are an awful idea from a purely practical viewpoint: they will actually make the UK less safe for all the reasons that Berners-Lee lists. Because of this fundamental flaw, he emphasizes:

“the most important thing to do is to stop the bill as it is at the moment”

Let’s hope the UK government listens to its own adviser, at least.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Tim Berners-Lee Says UK's Net Spying Plans Would Be 'Destruction Of Human Rights'”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

This idea of storing every email and every communication is great for hackers.

Just imagine: in the old days, hackers had to intercept communications or use social engineering to steal bank credentials. With this, they just need to attack one machine and will instantly have access to the credentials of the majority of the people.

Isn’t that just awesome? For the hackers, I mean. It will kinda suck for everyone else.

Anonymous Coward says:

David Cameron is stuck so far up his own arse, is such a megalomaniac, he wont listen to anyone. that was proven when he ignored the Hargreaves report on copyright reforms and this advice from Tim Berners-Lee will go the same way. as is usual with politicians, money and power are more important than representing and standing up for the people that do the electing!

Niall (profile) says:

Parliament should do this:

‘In the latest move to end the recession in the UK, the British Government has allowed for retroactive patents and copyright to be applied. The first person in the queue was Sir Tim Berners-Lee, applying to patent the entire World-Wide Web.

“Due to retroactive patenting of the Web” said Sir Tim in an interview yesterday, “I have been able to assert copyright on everything published via the Web, and any entity stealing money from the UK without a licence will be sued for statutory damages of ?200 per infringement, plus 3x profits. This will end the recession in the UK and lead to a glorious future of technological progress and innovation.”

When asked about future and retroactive licensing costs, Sir Tim replied “Licences will be available from a body to be set up by the government some time next year. Costs fir using the Web will simply be your firstborn, but if you wish to make money on it you will have to buy a licence, nominally charged at ?1 per person. No, that’s based on the number of people able to view the content, so about ?2 bn a pop should be fine. We have worked out fair and equitable costs based on the best evidence and methodologies developed by the content industries.”

A parliamentary spokesman also later clarified another part of the bill, regarding who would be liable for what. “In order to simplfy liability for 17 years of illegal use of the UK’s World-Wide Web service, it has been decided that all content publishers are liable for their own content, wherever it may be found. So if a dozen people publish ‘Avatar’ over the Web, then James Cameron is liable as the creator/publisher of the content for each one and its availability to all 7 billion people on the planet.”

Rumours that costs would also be applied to all exoplanets within 17+ light years on the basis of the Earth’s population on each were strongly denied by Parliament.’

Anonymous Coward says:

“the most important thing to do is to stop the bill as it is at the moment”

that wont happen because it is the same sort of thing that is going on in the USA atm. that’s where the idea has come from in the first place and gutless Cameron just keeps ‘bending over and grabbing his ankles on the White House lawn’ instead of standing up for UK citizens!

Niall (profile) says:

On-topic, let’s hope that the censorship inherent in these ham-fisted attempts, as well as the abuse of copyright and patent law, can all be routed around.

It’s like the daft idea of having to ‘apply’ to get certain political speech or ‘pr0n’ allowed on your computer – who will decide what is ‘ok’, what hoops will you have to jomp through to do so, and which insecure government lists and databases will you end up on?

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:


This idea of storing every email and every communication is great for hackers.

I’ve been pointing this out for years.

There are two ways to get your hands on private data:

1. Steal it.
2. Wait for someone else to steal it, and then steal it from them.

Now, of course, governments will tell you that (2) isn’t possible where they’re concerned.

They are lying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Politicians are only concerned with rich voter views. Our voice is nothing to them since we’re too stupid vote them out of office. If I was a politician I would defiantly not be worried about average voters that I could lead around like sheep.

This sucks who do I vote for when both sides are working for the same goddamn team?

Call me Al says:


I think this is a very important point and also a good insight into the arrogance of the UK State (and other states). They really believe, despite considerabe evidence to the contrary, that they are capable of designing and running a system such as this in an efficient and secure fashion.

Their IT history is abysmal with billion of ?s being wasted on projects, some of which never come to fruition or are not fit for purposes but are wheeled out anyway.

Their history of protecting data is also awful, with laptops left on trains. CDs floating around. Websites left unprotected. Data left open on systems with easy access for anyone with the nouse to look.

As the AC above said, this will become a one-stop shop for hackers. They’ll be able to obtain all kinds of data just on the basis of what has been proposed so far. I would also not be surprised if their was further amendments in the future, with government gradually adding more and more data to the system and so making it an even more attractive target.

Rapnel (profile) says:

Keep Your Enemies Close

Isn’t this a natural progression of intelligence gathering? To gain as much as possible from anywhere possible so as to properly gauge bellicose mutterings, transgressions and overt attacks? There is no “illegal” when the security of nations is at stake is there? Rights? I should think not, not truly. Protect against those who would choose to do you harm regardless of whether they are choosing to do so now or, possibly, later.

Governments are protecting themselves from you. Why might that be?

What better way to shore up protections? Fear. Every bleepin thing you’ve ever passed or will pass on the wire neatly cataloged. All of your travels and transactions, cataloged. Quite the deterrent that. If you were to ask me I’d say that there are folks that are afraid, very afraid.

Shut up, go to work and pay your taxes.

Encrypt and carry a big stick. Or, simply, live and die knowing that something, somewhere is not quite right.

gorehound (profile) says:

News of the World

UK Gov is allowing that young man to be extradited to USA to face Federal Jail Sentence for doing something legal in his own Country and for just providing some Links but no files or hosting of files.
In other News I must propose a “National Link Day” !!!!
Frakken Millions of people all Link to the same “Infringing” material for one day in Protest.
Looks like the UK Gov is just as Corrupted as our USA Gov

Dave says:

Good man!

Well done, that man. If the government just ignores this icon, there’s very little hope for the rest of us mere mortals. The whole idea is totally outrageous and should be stopped instantly. I get wholeheartedly sick and tired about reading articles about ever-increasing surveillance in general. We’re all living on the same planet, for goodness’ sake!

Anonymous Coward says:

Why are we even discussing what they can or cant do with our information, its OUR information for fcks sake, it should’nt even be a discussion, their testing the waters, seing how far they can push to see how much they can get, and if they get no resistance then they’ll fcking take everything……….and im pretty fcking sure, the uk wont offer anything close to a fcking resistance, i just dont see enough people here giving a damn……saying that i pray to god im wrong, because its just not right

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...