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The World Wide Web 25 years on

World Wide Web.jpg

 

On the 25th anniversary of the conception of the Internet its creator, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, called for a ‘Magna Carta’ bill of rights to protect Internet users.

 

Meanwhile, European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes claimed that billions of people around the world do not trust the internet.

 

How it all began

 

A quarter of a century ago the man now known as the Father of the Internet presented his boss with an idea to enable researchers all over the world to share documents.  His first proposals were judged by his manager at CERN, the European organisation for nuclear research in Geneva, as "vague but interesting".  The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

 

Speaking to the BBC and the Guardian, Sir Tim admitted that the idea that the World Wide Web would end up playing such a huge role in people's lives would have seemed "crazy" 25 years ago.  But, he said, the Internet community has now reached a crossroads.  In response to revelations of government surveillance by whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, Berners-Lee has spoken out for users’ rights, warning that surveillance could threaten the democratic nature of the web:

 

"Are we going to continue on the road and just allow the governments to do more and more and more control - more and more surveillance?

 

"Or are we going to set up a bunch of values? Are we going to set up something like a Magna Carta for the world wide web and say, actually, now it's so important, so much part of our lives, that it becomes on a level with human rights?"

 

The web we want

 

Sir Tim has given backing to the Web Foundation’s initiative, called "the web we want", urging people to create an internet users’ "bill of rights" for every country, which he hopes will be taken up by governments.  He called on people to take a stand against surveillance:

 

"The people of the world have to be constantly aware, constantly looking out for it - constantly making sure through action, protest, that it doesn't happen.

 

Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what's happening at the back door, we can't have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture. It's not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it."

 

Berners-Lee encouraged users to tell the Web Foundation their dream for the Internet via Twitter, using the hashtag, #web25.

 

Online trust

 

The Internet was also on the agenda of the Cebit tech fair in Hanover where Neelie Kroes addressed an audience that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.  The Vice-President, who is responsible for the European Commission's Digital Agenda, said that the Internet’s future was based on trust and that, following allegations that the Ms Merkel's phone was hacked, it was clear that trust was now missing.

 

Ms Kroes said that Snowden’s revelations had been a "wake-up call" and people should not "snooze through it".

 

But trust issues should not make people turn their back on technology, she said.  Instead, users need protecting "with more than slogans".

 

The European Commission’s proposals for a data protection bill would require companies and governments to take responsibility for data.

 

If nations were "serious about protecting ourselves" then a voluntary approach to data responsibility is "not enough, not anymore", she warned.

Jo Wise, Finance Director, The Security Company
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