Berners-Lee Urges Britons To Fight The Snooper's Charter, But For One UK Tech Company It's Too Late

from the doing-things-even-the-Americans-weren't dept

Tim Berners-Lee not only made the Web happen (and gave it away for free), he has continued to defend his creation and its users from various attacks. As Techdirt has reported, he's stood up for net neutrality, condemned NSA surveillance and called for a bill of rights for online users (although he's not always on the side of the angels….) Now he's added his voice to those warning about the UK's Snooper's Charter, soon to be resurrected, as The Guardian reports:

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has urged Britons to fight the government's plans to extend the country's surveillance powers, and act as a worldwide leader for promoting good governance on the web.
Berners-Lee is probably being too optimistic about the likelihood that the UK government will suddenly come to its senses, pull back from going full Orwell, and turn into a shining example to others. After all:
"It has lost a lot of that moral high ground, when people saw that GCHQ was doing things that even the Americans weren't," Berners-Lee said. "So now I think, if Britain is going to establish a leadership situation, it's going to need to say: 'We have solid rules of privacy, which you as an individual can be assured of, and that you as a company can be assured of'."
The economic argument that online businesses need an environment in which privacy is respected, is probably one of the few that David Cameron might listen to. As Berners-Lee notes, if a tech startup can't promise potential users basic protection for their personal data, then its product is seriously hobbled before it's even launched. That means that once the Snooper's Charter is in place -- assuming there is no rebellion by freedom-loving Conservative MPs when it comes to the vote -- people will think twice about choosing the UK as the base for a new tech company. In fact, people have already started leaving because of what the Snooper's Charter will do to their businesses:
Last week, less than one quarter of the electorate in the United Kingdom voted to give the Conservatives a 12-seat majority parliament. To those of you who voted Tory, I say great job: you're the reason Ind.ie (and thus Laura, Jo, and myself) are leaving the United Kingdom.
That comes from Aral Balkan, a well-known developer in the UK, who put the Snooper's Charter as one of four key reasons why he and his team at ind.ie will be seeking another country that still values freedom and privacy. Sadly, it seems more likely that others will be decide to follow their example than that the UK government will heed Berners-Lee's warning and change direction here.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 3:00am

    As someone who lives in the UK, I don't blame ind.ie in the slightest. I really don't.

    I wish them the best of luck wherever they end up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 4:11am

    Meh. I get the argument from a financial perspective why this is bad, but if we have to resort to that doesn't it show how completely warped the mindset is for some of these pols?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 5:12am

    Good luck finding a country, Mr. Balkan. You'll find all the countries have information sharing deals with GCHQ and NSA in the hopes of keeping those agencies from spying within their borders; which is a forlorn hope because GCHQ and NSA are spying within their borders anyway. (They certainly are in Germany, which was already sharing all intelligence information.)

    And now you've spoken your concerns, which means GHCQ and NSA have both realized you have Something to Hide™, so you've just been promoted into their respective Special Hyperattention for Incipient Terrorists™ lists.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 5:58am

    No argument

    "if a tech startup can't promise potential users basic protection for their personal data, then its product is seriously hobbled before it's even launched."

    Startups are doing fine in the US last I checked and they have to deal with NSLs. Just look at Lavabit if you need an example of how it ends if you don't give the Gov your users data.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jun 2015 @ 7:41am

    this whole issue came about because certain members of the Tory government went full into the censorship program instigated by the entertainment industries. since that first step raised by MP Claire Perry, backed by Cameron, supposedly over child pornography and/or the grooming of children for pornographic purposes the list of blocked sites has risen tremendously. if anyone were to check out the blocked sites though, the number connected with child pornography are almost zero, but the number concerned with movie and music downloading,covers 95%. the whole 'pornography' issue wasn't the issue, it was pleasing the same industries that sponsor Obama and Cameron's misguided desire to be Obama's bestest buddy!
    i hope i'm wrong on this but i doubt if a single child has been saved from the clutches of those who want to do the dirty with them because of the blanket website ban (and i doubt if anyone even bothers to check them out either, leaving the entertainment industries to go into court and continue their attempt at taking control of the internet by getting sites blocked and the bribed politicians to put new laws into place. like has happened for decades, the entertainment industries are the reason for our tardy progress as a planet, because they cant handle it and dont want anyone else to have it!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nastybutler77 (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 10:19am

    "Others will be decide to follow"?

    I think you forgot to take out that "be".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mindcrash, 5 Jun 2015 @ 10:41am

    Small fact missing here: Indie is not the only tech company valuing open source, democracy and freedom leaving the UK.

    Eris Industries, developers of the open source distributed application platform with the same name, are doing the same thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    WDS (profile), 5 Jun 2015 @ 12:30pm

    The Problem

    Unfortunately, both the UK government and the US government think that the problem isn't that they are invading our privacy, but that someone had the nerve to reveal it to us so we know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Frank, 6 Jun 2015 @ 12:46am

    Cheap PR

    Indie will do anything for publicity, you only just have to look at Aral's Twitter feed. He'll jump on the latest bandwagon rather than actually deliver any work for his donors. Anyone against him, he'll just block rather than engage in actual debate.

    He keeps talking about privilege, yet he's taken £80k from his parents, and over $100k from other people to fund his ranting. He still manages to be able to afford to travel to WWDC and move country on a whim. Seems to me he could've quite easily self-funded Indie to a point where he had something to start showing people, rather than just talking and using shocking hyperbole like child abuse and using the Paris attacks as a reason to pivot his company (which is barely even a company yet!)

    I didn't vote Tory, but it's making me wish I did as it's one "talker" we don't need ruining it for everyone else in the UK.

    He'll never achieve his goal, as he keeps running away from the problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2015 @ 6:56am

    Aral Balkan? I posted his recent talk in a techdirt comment section a few days ago, but it is worth repeating here.

    Seriously, anybody that is concerned about surveillance or what Google and Facebook have been up to for the last decade needs to watch this. Mr. Balan gives the best description I have heard of the long-term game being played by the tech industry, and the endgame (which we're just barely starting to see in a few places) should terrify anybody that cares about concepts like "democracy" and "freedom of thought"..

    "You Are The Product"

    https://projectbullrun.org/surveillance/2015/video-2015.html#balkan

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jun 2015 @ 11:23pm

    >"It has lost a lot of that moral high ground, when people saw that GCHQ was doing things that even the Americans weren't,"

    As an American, I'm irrationally proud that my spy agencies are being held up as the gold standard of the moral low ground. Nationalism, it's a hell of a drug.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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