April 18, 2012 at 1:04 PM ET
This week, as U.S.activists urge Internet users to protest CISPA, the cybersecurity bill movingthrough Congress, an Internet founder spoke out against a similar bill underconsideration in the UK.
Inan interview with the Guardian, Sir Tim Berners-Leesaid the Britishgovernment's plan to monitor the Internet activity of everyone in the countrywould be a "destruction of human rights." Berners-Lee,who engineered link communication on the World Wide Web (aka HTML), also advises the UKgovernment on making public data accessible. While he supports makinggovernment records available, he says fears over the government collecting personaldata "keep me up most at night."
Announcedon April 1, the UK government's plans for Internet surveillance include offering "law enforcement agencies unprecedented access to private communications," Engadget noted earlier this month. "British cellphone operators and ISPs will be required to harvest packet data -- containing the parties to all calls, emails andsocial media communication, as well as the time and duration of each message."Specifics of the plan are scheduled to be announced on May 9.
This is too muchinformation, and too much power, Berners-Lee told the Guardian. "The amountof control you have over somebody if you can monitor Internet activity isamazing," he said.
"The idea that we shouldroutinely record information about people is obviously very dangerous. It meansthat there will be information around which could be stolen, which can beacquired through corrupt officials or corrupt operators, and [could be] used,for example, to blackmail people in the government or people in the military.We open ourselves out, if we store this information, to it being abused."
Berners-Lee's interview is part ofthe Guardian's seven-day special series, Battle for the Internet. The series runs concurrently with a campaign by U.S. advocacies,including the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation,which urges Internet users to
Berners-Leealso spoke out against CISPA, saying it's "threatening the rights of people inAmerica, and effectively rights everywhere, because what happens in Americatends to affect people all over the world," he told the Guardian. "Eventhough the SOPA and PIPA acts were stopped by huge public outcry, it'sstaggering how quickly the U.S. government has come back with a new, different,threat to the rights of its citizens."