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.

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Filed Under: human rights, internet freedom, spying, tim berners-lee, uk


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  1. icon
    Niall (profile), 20 Apr 2012 @ 4:06am

    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.'

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