Berners-Lee dismisses government surveillance plans

News by Dan Raywood

Government-proposed plans to monitor citizens' internet and phone use has been described as a "destruction of human rights" by web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Government-proposed plans to monitor citizens' internet and phone use has been described as a "destruction of human rights" by web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

In an interview with The Guardian, Berners-Lee said the measures were dangerous and should be dropped. He said that the planned surveillance plans would make a huge amount of highly intimate information vulnerable to theft or release by corrupt officials – and it was moves by governments to control or spy on the internet that "keep me up most at night".

He said: “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.”

He also said that if the Government believed it was essential to collect this kind of sensitive data, it would have to establish a "very strong independent body" that could investigate every use of the surveillance powers to establish whether the target did pose a threat, and whether the intrusion had produced valuable evidence.

Speaking at the RSA Conference Europe in October last year, Berners-Lee said internet users should be able to control their information and store it as they wish, saying that personal data is often not controlled by the "owner", and when it is given to a third party it is often hard to know who it is ultimately shared with.

In an interview with SC Magazine recently, information commissioner Christopher Graham said he expected the proposed Government surveillance plans to stand out in next month's Queen's Speech, which would not have "an awful lot else in it".

He said: “Obviously this will be quite big and I have been working with the Home Office on their Communications Capability Review under both the last government and the current government. Our position is consistent with our response to the last government's consultation.”

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