The inventor of the world wide web has used the 25th anniversary of his creation to call for an online “bill of rights” to protect the internet‘s independence, with Sir Tim Berners-Lee highlighting worrying surveillance and net-neutrality trends as the basis for his fears. Describing his vision of a “global constitution” or online “Magna Carta”, Berners-Lee described the web as he envisaged it a quarter of a century ago as under attack from businesses and governments that would co-opt it for their own purposes.
“Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture” Berners-Lee told the Guardian. “It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.”
The result is Web We Want, a call for an internet-equivalent to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Drafting proposals for just the sort of “bill of rights” Berners-Lee has in mind, it calls for affordable access, privacy and the right to communicate in private, freedom of expression, open infrastructure, and neutral, non-discriminatory networks.
However, there are some controversies likely to brew in the web founder’s proposals. For instance, the British scientist calls for the US to give up its control over domain names, as well as for spying agencies like the NSA to dismantle their surveillance tools.
“I want to use the 25th anniversary for us all to do that, to take the web back into our own hands and define the web we want for the next 25 years” Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Leaks from whistleblowers like Edward Snowden have revealed huge monitoring and spying projects gathering vast quantities of internet usage data by the NSA, GHCQ, and other government agencies. Earlier today, a “smart malware” tool codenamed TURBINE was detailed, using fake Facebook pages and intelligent infection to infect target computers.
“The spying stuff will be probably be controlled by organizations, and you have to bring social systems for holding those organizations accountable” Berners-Lee told CNET. “Those social systems will be based on fundamental values — I have the right to use the Web without worrying about being spied upon. I have the right to connect to your Web site no matter what it is, what politics you have, what color and culture you are.”
Whether Berners-Lee’s calls for more action will be heard by users remains to be seen. “The Day We Fight Back” fizzled out in February, while Edward Snowden himself blamed confusion and misunderstanding for the lack of people taking basic steps for data encryption that might protect them from security service surveillance.