The founder of the world wide web has blown the whistle on the dangers of governments turning the internet into a huge spying tool.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee said that while it was important to fight serious organised crime and for a state to defend itself against cyber attacks, citizens should be worried about governments taking control of the web.
Lately there have been a lot of calls for internet filtering – with governments saying they are protecting citizens from organised crime, terrorists, state sponsored cyber war and sex pests.
However, Sir Tim warns that internet monitoring for these reasons is fraught with danger. He is especially worried about the government data retention plans which are being mooted in Australia.
The data retention proposal is part of the federal government’s overhaul of national security measures and would require internet service providers and telecommunication carriers to store the internet history of all Australians for at least two years.
Sir Tim said that stored information is so dangerous, you have to think of it as dynamite. But instead of nabbing “serious criminals”, such a process would only snare people who had taken out too many library books.
While it is possible to set up a watchdog to ensure there was no overstepping the mark, so far no government had introduced a foolproof system of checks and balances.
Sir Tim said he is worried about web filtering, which he called a sign of a sick government that is addicted to spying.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Sir Tim said that people should beware of any government that has the ability to control what you see on the web.
His comments must have been embarrassing to the Communication Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, who was present. Conroy is the architect of a silly mandatory internet filtering plan. He wants every Aussie ISP to block overseas-hosted “refused classification” material as identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. His plan was shelved in November after it was deemed too silly, even for a country which has a mammal that lays eggs and is half duck, half otter.