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Tim Berners-Lee speaks out on net neutrality and privacy in web birthday message

He wants to remind us all of what he had in mind
Wed Mar 12 2014, 13:08
British physicist and computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee

INVENTOR OF THE WORLD WIDE WEB Sir Tim Berners-Lee has taken the opportunity of its 25th birthday to speak out on net neutrality and privacy.

The hot-button net neutrality issue was triggered by legal action in the US, where a recent court case found that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) did not have the right to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from prioritising internet traffic to paying customers.

Berners-Lee, who has previously spoken out in favour of Edward Snowden's surveillance revelations, and lobbied heavily in the web's early days for CERN to offer the technology royalty free, celebrated the freedom the web offers,

"The web can be made to work with any type of information, on any device, with any software, in any language. You can link to any piece of information. You don't need to ask for permission. What you create is limited only by your imagination."

However, he went on to warn, "Key decisions on the governance and future of the internet are looming, and it's vital for all of us to speak up for the web's future."

He proceeded to ask some searching questions, hinting at the recent US National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance of the internet. "How do we build consensus around open standards to link the coming Internet of Things? Will we allow others to package and restrict our online experience, or will we protect the magic of the open web and the power it gives us to say, discover, and create anything? How can we build systems of checks and balances to hold the groups that can spy on the net accountable to the public?"

Speaking on the BBC Breakfast TV show this morning, he went one step further, suggesting an internet Magna Carta likening the freedoms the web offers to basic human rights and talked of a neutral medium that can be used without feeling that "somebody's looking over our shoulder".

Sir Tim's continuing influence over his creation remains powerful, to the point that he was even acknowledged during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. Many might hope that his comments will give pause to companies around the world who continue to fight for control of what its creator believes should be a free medium. µ


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