The news that US President Donald Trump has decided to sell private citizens’ browsing data for money has been slammed by the inventor of the worldwide web.
Trump had always been critical of US rules governing Internet business and his administration has appointed key personnel who are hostile to current regulations.
For example, the newly appointed head of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, has already published plans to end net neutrality.
Net neutrality is the principle of ensuring that a small website has the same chance of being visited as a large website, and the internet service providers are not allowed to favour one over the other.
But now, not only is net neutrality on the chopping block, so too is any pretence at online privacy, since the FCC has also decided to allow ISPs to sell individuals’ private browsing data to the highest bidder.
This is all too much for Berners-Lee, who set up the structures and protocols for the worldwide web – and the very first webpage – in-between smashing atoms at Cern.
Speaking to the Guardian, Berners-Lee says the current US administrations plans to totally abolish privacy is shocking, and called for a massive global uprising against it.
Berners-Lee says: “It’s not the case that an ISP can just spy on people and monetize the data; if they do, they will get taken to court. Obviously the worry is the attitude and the direction. The attitude is really appalling. That bill was a disgusting bill, because when we use the web, we are so vulnerable.”
He adds that the people tend to tell their computer everything about themselves, which makes them vulnerable to medics.
“There are things that people do on the web that reveal absolutely everything, more about them than they know themselves sometimes,” he says.
“Because so much of what we do in our lives that actually goes through those left-clicks, it can be ridiculously revealing. You have the right to go to a doctor in privacy where it’s just between you and the doctor. And similarly, you have to be able to go to the web.”
He claims that people, including Americans, might like to have some privacy occasionally.
“Privacy, a core American value, is not a partisan thing,” says Berners-Lee. “Democrats fight for it and Republicans fight for it too, maybe even more. So I am very shocked that the Republican party has managed to suggest that it should be trashed; if anyone follows up on this direction, there will be a massive pushback – and there must be a massive pushback!
“If they take away net neutrality, there will have to be a tremendous amount of public debate as well. You can bet there will be public demonstrations if they do try to take it away.”
And although he doesn’t quite go so far as to suggest eating the rich, he argues that there is a “frustrating and intolerable” digital divide emerging, wherein only those with wealth will be able to afford privacy, and have a better online experience.