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Tim Berners-Lee warns against government surveillance

Web pioneer puts a flea in the ear
Fri Nov 22 2013, 09:41
British physicist and computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee

THE INVENTOR of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee has spoken out against government surveillance and censorship.

Berners-Lee made his comments as the World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF) released its latest state of the web report. The report is mostly about the good that has been done, but Berners-Lee took the opportunity to warn the world about the looming dangers of government surveillance and censorship.

According to a report on the Guardian newspaper Berners-Lee warned about "a growing tide of surveillance and censorship".

"One of the most encouraging findings of this year's web Index is how the web and social media are increasingly spurring people to organise, take action and try to expose wrongdoing in every region of the world," he said.

"But some governments are threatened by this, and a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy. Bold steps are needed now to protect our fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and association online."

Berners-Lee's comments come along with the publication of the WWWF's annual web rankings index, a table of positives about the internet. The foundation called it "the world's first multi-dimensional measure of the World Wide Web's contribution to development and human rights globally".

While the internet has aided development, so too has it been subject to censorship and surveillance. The latest report found that web blocking and snooping are both on the rise.

"Targeted censorship of web content by governments is widespread across the globe. Moderate to extensive blocking or filtering of politically sensitive content was reported in over 30 percent of Web Index countries during the past year," it said.

"Legal limits on government snooping online urgently need review. 94 percent of countries in the Web Index do not meet best practice standards for checks and balances on government interception of electronic communications."

The UK and US were both criticised for government snooping online, and while Sweden is top for openness, second is Norway.

"The UK and US come third and fourth respectively," it added, but "both come in for criticism for surveillance practices". µ


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