Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has accused Western governments of “seriously spying” on internet users.
The British inventor has accused the UK and US governments of hypocrisy surrounding online data surveillance.
“In the Middle East, people have been given access to the internet but they have been snooped and then they have been jailed,” said Berners-Lee. “Obviously, it can be easy for people in the West to say, ‘oh, those nasty governments should not be allowed access to spy’.
Recent revelations about the surveillance on citizens’ internet use in the UK and America could have dangerous rammifications, and not just on freedom of speech.
Berners-Lee outlined that information garnered by people online can be valuable and often critical to their daily lives, especially in cases of abuse or self-discovery.
“Teenagers who are unsure about their sexuality who need to contact others, or people being abused trying to find helplines… there are things that happen on the net that are very intimate, which people are going to be loath to do if they feel there’s somebody looking over their shoulder.”
It was recently revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden that US security agencies were using a National Security Agency program called Prism to collect data on citizens’ web activity. The UK government has also been accused of using the software to do the same thing.
Berners-Lee recognises that some communication data needs to be monitored for national security, but there needs to be the right balance between privacy and protection.
“The information people are talking about is very intimately connected with people’s lives. It’s potentially dynamite if it gets into the wrong hands,” explained Berners-Lee. “If criminals had access to that information about Members of Parliament or the military, the potential for blackmail could be huge. I think it’s something this country needs to address.”