Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tim Berners-Lee: Stop Snooping on my Web

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web, is worried. (image: Sir Tim Berners-Lee) As well he should be. The nature of his concern? Pervasive, Internet snooping by commercial interests that definitely don't have your best interests in mind. How pervasive? 24/7/365. Every URL, every keystroke, all your browsing habits and behaviors. Read about it here.

Why is that important? Think about it. Imagine the profile that can be created with that much data. Take a minute and actually contemplate that. Your personal profile is deep, wide, detailed and potentially dangerous in the wrong hands. Companies you've never even heard of know you better than your family and friends. And the upstart is, we just gave this up over a decade ago without even a conversation. There were no town-hall meetings, no forums, very few on-line threads around this issue. Total and complete loss of personal privacy... anonymity gone forever - without so much as a whimper from the peanut gallery. Breathtaking. From the article cited, here are some of Sir Tim's concerns:
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web, today warned MPs and peers that they should not allow third parties, including commercial companies, to snoop on people's internet browsing.

"We use the internet without a thought that a third party would know what we have just clicked on," Berners-Lee said.

"Yet the URLs [webpages] people use reveal a huge amount about their lives, loves, hates and fears. This is extremely sensitive information.

"People use the web in a crisis, when wondering whether they have a sexually transmitted disease, or cancer, when wondering if they are homosexual and whether to talk about it … to discuss political views."

He said people "use the internet to inform ourselves as voters in a democracy", adding: "We use the internet to decide what is true and what is not.

"We use the internet for healthcare and social interaction."

He said people would consider using the web in a crisis in a different light if they knew they were being monitored and the data would be shared with a third party such as an advertising company.

"There will be a huge commercial pressure to release this data," he said. "The principle should be that it is not to be collected in the first place."

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