Tim Berners-Lee Slams Government Web Monitoring Plans

Posted: 18/04/2012 08:14 Updated: 18/04/2012 13:31   PA

Controversial government plans to allow intelligence agencies to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits of every person in the UK should be scrapped, the inventor of the world wide web has said.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee warned that the "dangerous" new laws would lead to a "destruction of human rights" if they were implemented in their current form.

The new legislation, expected in next month's Queen's Speech, will enable GCHQ to access information "on demand" in "real time" without a warrant.

But the British computer engineer, who advises the Government on how to make public data more accessible, said there has not been enough discussion on how the sensitive data could be safely stored.

In an interview with The Guardian Sir Tim said: "The idea that we should routinely record information about people is obviously very dangerous.

"It means that there will be information around which could be stolen, which can be acquired 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."

The internet pioneer added: "The amount of control you have over somebody if you can monitor internet activity is amazing.
"You get to know every detail, you get to know, in a way, more intimate details about their life than any person that they talk to because often people will confide in the internet as they find their way through medical websites....or as an adolescent finds their way through a website about homosexuality, wondering what they are and whether they should talk to people about it."

The Home Secretary Theresa May defended the proposals after they faced fierce criticism from backbench MPs and civil liberties groups.

She insisted that suspected terrorists, paedophiles and serious criminals would be targeted by intelligence officials rather than ordinary people.

Sir Tim said that if the government pushes ahead with the plans a "very strong independent body" would have to be set up to scrutinise the use of the powers.

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Filed by Melanie Hick  |