Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee has hit out at the “unwarranted government surveillance” of the internet, in the wake of the PRISM scandal, warning it threatened the foundations of democratic society.
Berners-Lee has issued a statement through the World Wide Web Foundation, the charity he established to promote an open web, criticising the routine snooping on people's internet use.
He described the revelations that the US National Security Agency kept tabs on users' online activities as “deeply concerning”.
“I call on all web users to demand better legal protection and due process safeguards for the privacy of their online communications, including their right to be informed when someone requests or stores their data,” he wrote.
Because internet use can be used to reveal highly sensitive personal information, it is vital that robust protections are put in place to safeguard such details, Berners-Lee argued.
“A store of this information about each person is a huge liability: Whom would you trust to decide when to access it, or even to keep it secure?”
Berners-Lee's comments were made after a former IT contractor that worked at the CIA's offices in Hawaii leaked details of a covert snooping operation dubbed PRISM. This apparently enabled the NSA to access information about users of Google, Facebook and a host of other high profile web firms, which was stored for agents to comb through at will.
“The NSA targets the communications of everyone. It ingests them by default. Any analyst at any time can target anyone," said Edward Snowden, the PRISM whistleblower.
The tech firms implicated in the leak have all rushed to deny any involvement in the routine snooping of users and the details of what went on remain unclear.
Jim Killock, executive director for the Open Rights Group, has called on the UK government to take urgent steps to ensure Britons did not have their privacy breached by US snoops.
“Now our politicians must live up to their duty, and turn their attention to ways to protect British and European citizens from US-based warrantless surveillance,” he wrote on an ORG blog.
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