Web inventor: Surveillance threatens democracy (Update)

Nov 22, 2013 by Sylvia Hui
Tim Berners-Lee gives a speech on April 18, 2012 at the World Wide Web international conference in Lyon, central France

The scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web spoke out Friday against what he called a "growing tide of surveillance and censorship," warning that it is threatening the future of democracy.

Tim Berners-Lee, who launched the Web in 1990, made the remarks as he released his World Wide Web Foundation's annual report tracking the Web's impact and global censorship. The index ranked Sweden first in Web access, openness and freedom, followed by Norway, the U.K. and the United States.

"One of the most encouraging findings of this year's Web Index is how the Web and social media are increasingly spurring people to organize, take action and try to expose wrongdoing in every region of the world," said Berners-Lee, 58.

"But some governments are threatened by this, and a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy," he said, adding that steps need to be taken to protect privacy rights and ensure users can continue to gather and speak out freely online.

The warning from Berners-Lees is the latest in a global debate about surveillance and privacy, sparked by the release of classified documents leaked by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden that showed the extent of government spying on people's online lives. While the leaks focused on the work of the NSA, scrutiny has since spread to other Western intelligence agencies.

Friday's report said online spying and blocking are on the rise around the world, and politically sensitive Web content is blocked in almost one in three countries. Despite their high overall rankings, the U.S. and Britain both received mediocre scores for safeguarding users' privacy.

Mexico was the highest ranking emerging economy at 30th. Russia came in 41st, China was at 57th, and Mali, Ethiopia and Yemen were at the bottom of the list. Rich countries did not necessarily do better than poorer ones—Estonia, for example, ranked higher than Switzerland, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia performed far worse than their income ranking would suggest.

Many of the 81 countries surveyed have failed to use the Web to properly disseminate basic information on health and education, and the majority of governments hide important data such as information about land ownership and company registration, the report said.

About 39 percent of the global population was online in 2013—more than double from 2005, which recorded 16 percent. In Africa, fewer than one in five people are using the Internet, with many saying they cannot afford it.

Explore further: Tech-backed coalition makes transparency push global

More information: Online: www.thewebindex.org/

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User comments : 22

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bearly
4.6 / 5 (11) Nov 22, 2013
Anyone who has read the book "1984" by George Orwell knows what the future holds for us if the feds are allowed free rein.
Expiorer
1.6 / 5 (10) Nov 22, 2013
Just use tor
Lurker2358
1.4 / 5 (19) Nov 22, 2013
I disagree.

Surveillance empowers democracy.

Protection from Terrorists, Rapists, and murderers is top priority.

More surveillance will even help prevent false convictions by ensuring the police truly have arrested and charged the correct person when crimes are committed.

The only people who stand to lose anything are the criminals.
merv3
3.2 / 5 (18) Nov 22, 2013
Just use tor

Tor isn't a drop-in replacement to enhance everyone's privacy. Users web browsing habits will need to change as well to gain additional privacy. Users will also need to adapt to Tor's downsides, especially the increased latency. Tor is thus unsuitable for the general user. More fundamental changes need to occur, like HTTP 2.0.

I disagree.

Surveillance empowers democracy.

Protection from Terrorists, Rapists, and murderers is top priority.

More surveillance will even help prevent false convictions by ensuring the police truly have arrested and charged the correct person when crimes are committed.

The only people who stand to lose anything are the criminals.

If the British Empire had NSA-like surveillance capability, the USA would still be a British Empire colony.

"They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
– Benjamin Franklin
cantdrive85
1.3 / 5 (12) Nov 23, 2013
I thought this would be an article about Al Gore.
kochevnik
1.6 / 5 (19) Nov 23, 2013
USA needs spying because it lacks a brain to invent. Now with China dumping the dollar like old chop suey USA will have no manufacturing, no jobs and hyperinflation. USA will be forced to barricade itself economically from the planet. It's only choice will be to launch more wars and steal what it is unable to provide for itself. War will restore the USA economy by destroying all others, achieving Hitler's dream. Students of nazis imported into USA through the Vatican ratlines in project Paperclip will claim their place as USA rulers. USA dollar set to plummet like the twin towers in a controlled demolition at freefall speed. Smart money is now buying art and gold which is the proven aristocratic way to survive national calamities
kochevnik
1.6 / 5 (19) Nov 23, 2013
More than 102million working age Americans do not have work. In three years more working age Americans will be unemployed than working! USA will collapse in a pile of unpayable debt to zionist banksters and philistines will eat America from the inside out
VendicarE
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 23, 2013
"I thought this would be an article about Al Gore." - Can't Drive Too Stupid

It could be. Gore holds the same view as Tim Berners-Lee, and Gore of course was the person who created and pushed though congress the laws that created the public access internet as we know it.

You have a lot to thank Gore for, TardieBoy.
Telekinetic
2.5 / 5 (13) Nov 23, 2013
"Surveillance empowers democracy
Protection from Terrorists, Rapists and murderers is top priority"- Lurker

Martin Luther King and John Lennon were under surveillance for years by federal agencies like the FBI. Were THEY terrorists, rapists, or murderers? And the U.S. military, who will protect us from these criminals, have a widespread incidence of rape within their own troops. The military tactic of "shock and awe" has a terror component, especially when civilians are left dead from the attack, which would be considered homicide in a civilian court. The abolition of one's right to privacy is the most dangerous threat to freedom, and historically, the misuse and abuse of surveillance is the first tool of fascist governments. It forced Nixon to resign.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (8) Nov 23, 2013
Surveillance empowers democracy

Ever heard of something called "Watergate"?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Nov 23, 2013
USA needs spying because it lacks a brain to invent.
Ahaahaaa this from a russian was formerly a communist state and is now a mafia state.
Students of nazis imported into USA
The soviets got half of those nazis yes? They taught you all how to make a KGB.

"(Reuters) - Russian authorities are moving to expand surveillance of the Internet by requiring service providers to store all traffic temporarily and make it available to the top domestic intelligence agency." 10/13
Ever heard of something called "Watergate"?
Ever heard of something called "Waterkant-Gate, one of the biggest political scandals in German post-war history." -?

"Merkel's government was one of the National Security Agency's "key partners"... Der Spiegel reported that German intelligence agencies worked with the NSA to collect data on its own citizens"

-Thanks partner. Wenn schon denn schon.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Nov 23, 2013
Ever heard of something called "Waterkant-Gate, one of the biggest political scandals in German post-war history." -?

Exactly my point.
kochevnik
1.3 / 5 (13) Nov 23, 2013
"(Reuters) - Russian authorities are moving to expand surveillance of the Internet by requiring service providers to store all traffic temporarily and make it available to the top domestic intelligence agency." 10/13
The difference is that Americans are true believers in their American wet dream, and embrace tyrranical police state laws when intelligence services stage a casus belli show like 9/11. Russians are natural anarchists and you will note the bill has no funding, which means it is already dead

NKVD police trained German Stasi, not as you say Nazis now training KGB
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Nov 23, 2013
Surveillance empowers democracy.. Protection from Terrorists, Rapists, and murderers is top priority
Surveillance is inevitable given that technology will enable anybody to watch anybody. In the future it will be possible to make crime impossible.

Everything of value will be tagged and its whereabouts monitored constantly. Insurers will mandate that people be implanted with RFID networks which will constantly monitor their location and physical state.

The only way to ensure that this potential not be misused or corrupted is to assign it to intelligent machines.

"Automated surveillance allows governments (and others) to data mine the physical world...thousands of cameras perched on buildings... drones... video is data and computers are being set to work mining that information on behalf of governments and anyone else who can afford the software... only going to get more sophisticated as a result of new technologies like iris scanners and gait analysis."
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (6) Nov 23, 2013
Russians are natural anarchists and you will note the bill has no funding, which means it is already dead
-who obediently follow czars and despots and kingpins and crackpot philos who tell them to take up arms and begin shooting each other and shipping each other off to gulag? You all revolt on cue.

Thats ok youre certainly not alone. Everybody invades afghanistan sooner or later.
NKVD police trained German Stasi, not as you say Nazis now training KGB
-So russkis are better at this sort of thing than even nazis? Okay.
Captain Stumpy
1 / 5 (8) Nov 23, 2013
@Lurker2358
More surveillance will even help prevent false convictions by ensuring the police truly have arrested and charged the correct person when crimes are committed.

The only people who stand to lose anything are the criminals.


so... what happens when you open a link from a friend (or virus infected computer) and it happens to be a young girl that is illegal?
what happens when you write in your computerized private journal about how you want to shoot the president... you are now a terrorist, technically.
you are not thinking straight. EVERYONE has committed a crime according to what the Homeland Security has decided is terroristic.
possible terrorists include: any veteran who does not agree with the president; anyone who: is a third party political supporter, any patriot movement; anyone against open borders; anyone how is against the UN Gun Ban Treaty... there is SO much more
Captain Stumpy
1 / 5 (8) Nov 23, 2013
"They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
– Benjamin Franklin

technology is inevitable.

intelligent machines will be the eventual answer, as Otto has said.
Telekinetic
1.9 / 5 (9) Nov 23, 2013
"Surveillance is inevitable given that technology will enable anybody to watch anybody. In the future it will be possible to make crime impossible."- G. of O.

In typical fashion of contradicting yourself, Ghost, your fantasy of a crime-less future is itself the crime. Think of society as a living organism that evolves and reinvents itself for adaptation to a myriad of changes. The perverse repression and rigidity of a society inevitably leads to people overturning the ruling power. These intelligent machines would conduct surveillances in an unbiased way? Who do you think programs the machines? And who's going to pay for such sophisticated machinery? You? Of course you'd think that criminal justice can be automated since you don't pay taxes and are a ward of the State. The whole world is broke and yet they're going to finance your comic book of the future.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Nov 24, 2013
In typical fashion of contradicting yourself, Ghost, your fantasy of a crime-less future is itself the crime
Its interesting you think that the freedom to commit crime is an inalienable right.
Think of society as a living organism that evolves... perverse repression and rigidity of tks brain
No, natural selection weeds out those who ignore natural law. Humans have learned how to circumvent natural law. They stopped evolving a long time ago.

Domestication is not evolution. It is artificial like the tang your mom makes you every morning.
intelligent machines would conduct surveillances in an unbiased way? Who do you think programs the machines?
Eventually they would program themselves. But we are governed by laws written by people. Machines are programmed the same way.

Its funny - you trust bubba the cop not to plant weed in your trunk, but you fear a machine which could do nothing BUT enforce the letter of the law. Consistently and without bias.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Nov 24, 2013
You just want to preserve your god-given right to cheat. Seriously. Religion is based on the perception that some of us can break the law and be forgiven for it. Religions residual effects are difficult to purge even among the most atheistic of us.
And who's going to pay for such sophisticated machinery?
Who pays for all the lawyers and judges and cops and prison guards and doctors and CPAs and engineers and car salesmen and all the other people that AI will replace? Machines are FAR cheaper than people.

This is not some Wunschtraum. This WILL happen. You can whine and mewl all you want. People want freedom from crime, corruption, and injustice and will be willing to give up the ability to cheat in order to get it.

People are SICK of others who enjoy taking advantage of them. Only machines can hope to keep people honest because machines can never be dishonest.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Nov 24, 2013
Guys like you would rather have cops risking their lives, and the lives of innocent people, chasing down speeders instead of using traffic cams which are far cheaper and safer, only because someone wrote a book with a character named big brother in it. Pathetic.
ForFreeMinds
1 / 5 (7) Nov 25, 2013
Many posters to this thread fail to distinguish between who's doing the surveillance and where. Some confuse video surveillance in public locations with interception of communications.

I've think few people have issues with businesses recording what's going on in their business (if one objects, they don't have to shop there). Government video surveillance of public areas is happening, and is still somewhat controversial. Berners-Lee speaks of government spying on citizens, of their electronic communications.

He does err in stating it threatens democracy. What it threatens is freedom, specifically freedom of privacy in your papers, effects and communications.

However, there are some potential technologies arising in response. There is a move afoot to make router software open source. This would allow firms such as Norton/McAfee to install software on the routers to detect spying software, and remove any backdoors the NSA has found, or had the firms put in the products.