SIR TIM BERNERS-LEE, best known as the inventor of the worldwide web, has hit out at the renewed government push to weaken encryption following the Westminster terrorist attack.
Berners-Lee described it as a "bad idea", adding: "Now I know that if you're trying to catch terrorists it's really tempting to demand to be able to break all that encryption but if you break that encryption then, guess what? So could other people and, guess what? They may end up getting better at it than you are."
He also criticised the Investigatory Powers Act, which not only requires internet service providers (ISPs) to keep records of their users' online activities, but enables tens of thousands of people in the public sector - particularly the police, security services, HMRC and across local authorities - to access this database of private information.
"The idea that all ISPs should be required to spy on citizens and hold the data for six months is appalling," he said, adding to criticisms that he had expressed as the Bill was being debated, the latest in a number of similar Bills that governments of various composition had been trying to get through Parliament since the Data Retention Directive was passed in 2006.
Berners-Lee suggested that online privacy was essential to the health of the internet: "We're talking about it being just a human right that my ability to communicate with people on the web, to go to websites I want without being spied on is really, really crucial."
Berners-Lee also expressed opposition to moves in the US to bin the principle of net neutrality.
Berners-Lee was talking to the BBC after picking up yet another gong for extreme cleverness, this time the Turing Award, which has been described as the Nobel Prize of computing.
His comments come a week after home Secretary Amber Rudd said that there should be "no place for terrorists to hide" following the Westminster terrorist attack. The attacker, according to police sent a message over WhatsApp just prior to launching the attack.
Rudd called on technology companies to implement "back doors" in their products so that governments could more easily tap the communications of suspected terrorists and, potentially, anyone else.
"The best people who understand the technology, who understand the necessary hashtags to stop this stuff ever being put up, not just taken down, but ever being put up in the first place are going to be them," said Rudd in a widely mocked television interview.
The Home Office later suggested that what Rudd was really referring to was "image hashing", a means of turning an image into a code so that it can quickly and easily be compared to other images.
It's still not clear exactly what that has to do with WhatsApp providing some form of backdoor into its encrypted communications that only ‘good' governments could access. WhatsApp claims that it doesn't have the means to tap people's communications due to the way it is designed (just like Skype, of course). µ
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