Skip to main content

Tim Berners-Lee Criticises Government Surveillance Plans

Tim Berners-Lee has spoken out against the government's planned legislation to increase the snooping powers of GCHQ.

The plans, which were revealed at the start of this month, would facilitate the real-time monitoring of communications, including emails, browsing and phone calls. ISPs will have to mirror traffic through GCHQ to allow for this real-time snooping.

Internet firms, rights groups and other MPs were quick to let the government know that this further erosion of online privacy is a dangerous step to take - and one that the serious criminals or terrorists which the legislation aims to combat, would likely be able to evade anyway.

Now Tim Berners-Lee has thrown his weight behind the naysayers, saying that the extension of surveillance powers amounts to a "destruction of human rights".

In an interview, he told the Guardian: "The amount of control you have over somebody if you can monitor internet activity is amazing."

"You get to know every detail, you get to know, in a way, more intimate details about their life than any person that they talk to because often people will confide in the internet as they find their way through medical websites ... or as an adolescent finds their way through a website about homosexuality, wondering what they are and whether they should talk to people about it."

He added: "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."

Berners-Lee said that if the government did feel compelled to push ahead with the scheme, it would have to establish a "very strong" independent body to oversee the use of the powers, and evaluate the success any snooping produced.

When in opposition, the current government voiced its staunch objections to a similar plan when Labour floated it. A cynical person might, at this point, start muttering darkly about puppet strings.

Source: The Guardian