Privacy? ‘What’s that?’ says Mozilla Foundation exec

As MozFest kicks off this weekend in London, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation Mark Surman (pictured below), made clear his concerns about online privacy with the quip, "What's that?" He also outlined Mozilla's concerns about freedom of online expression as the web develops.

"I think there's a tension in the Internet today, between freedom and control," he said.

"Do I get to make choices about how the Internet works for me? What I get from the Internet, does it help make my life better?

"That choice, personal control and freedom of self-expression is the heart of what made the Internet great."

Read more: Hackers of the world unite as privacy startups answer Snowden's call

"We're trending on a balance in the other direction, where we have monopolies taking control over how that self-expression happens. With Facebook, you have one company that owns Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook, and that's 80 per cent of all global messaging traffic.

"We're moving towards basically empires of platforms, in the same way that Microsoft had with Windows, in the Internet."

A very interesting issue that arose at Thursday's press conference, which I for one had not considered before, was the difference in the web experience now provided to developing countries, to that experienced by the developed world from the nineties until now. Since so much of the web is accessed via mobile devices through apps, and so many of these apps are owned or somehow linked to Google or Apple, it's a profoundly different online environment to the open web before its "monopolisation". Developing countries' first taste of the Internet is arguably less free, resulting in less user-empowerment.

It's a brilliant thing that Facebook is looking to connect the world with drones, but it's important that users can express themselves online with the freedom initially granted to the public.

Out of Mozilla's quest for the continuation of personal expression online, Mozilla Webmaker was born. Its tools, events and teaching guides allow web users to create their own content, and to understand how the web works.

Read more: Mozilla expands into Asia with Bangladesh release of Firefox OS

MozFest gets hackers, inventors, students, journalists, and more together under one roof to try and address these kind of concerns. Indeed, the 2014 event is entitled "Building the Web We Want". Close to 1,600 people are expected to descend upon Ravensbourne, a media campus located next to the London O2 Arena.

During the festival weekend, main stage speakers will include Mary Moloney, Global CEO of CoderDojo; Dame Beeban Kidron, award-winning producer, director and campaigner; and Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman of Mozilla.

Interactive sessions at this year's festival include a continuation of Mozilla's global Maker Party, which taught more than 125,000 people how to build the web through hands-on learning this summer.

MozFest runs from 24-26 October.