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Tim Berners-Lee on Prism: NSA snooping 'threatens the foundations of democracy'

The inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has described the advent of the Prism system of Internet surveillance (opens in new tab) as “deeply concerning.”

The Londoner, who created the web in 1989, described Prism as “an intrusion on basic human rights that threatens the very foundations of a democratic society.”

Berners-Lee is the head of the World Wide Web Consortium, which oversees development of the web, and the World Wide Web Foundation (opens in new tab), which aims to keep the Internet “free and open.”

Recent revelations that top technology firms like Microsoft, Google, Apple, Skype and several others are allegedly part of a US government-run spying programme has caused shockwaves across the Internet industry, despite the firms named denying any knowledge of or involvement in Prism.

“I call on all web users to demand better legal protection and due process safeguards for the privacy of their online communications, including their right to be informed when someone requests or stores their data,” Berners-Lee said in a statement obtained by the Financial Times (opens in new tab).

“Over the last two decades, the web has become an integral part of our lives. A trace of our use of it can reveal very intimate personal things. A store of this information about each person is a huge liability: Whom would you trust to decide when to access it, or even to keep it secure?”

Berners-Lee has been a vocal advocate of free speech, the open Internet, and online privacy, labelling the UK's Digital Economy Act as a “farce,” opposing the controversial SOPA legislation, and criticising UK web snooping plans (opens in new tab). Prism arguably presents a much larger threat to the web.

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