8 Insights from Inventor of the Web on Security, Net Neutrality and Digital Rights

If you missed Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s ‘WebWeWantFest’ Talk on September 27th at London’s South Bank Centre here are the key highlights:

1) Connectivity — Mobile technology will most likely address connectivity issues for the remaining 60% humanity that lacks internet access. However the last 20% will be especially challenging to get connected.

2) Security — Individuals need to take more responsibility for their own security and efforts to push for a secure ‘HTTPS’ enabled web are well worth supporting.

3) The social graph — Data held by social networks on users primarily benefits these networks rather than the individual users. Individuals should have more access to this data and the ability to analyse and manipulate this. A move towards personal/private tools to host images/data/websites (personal web servers) could help achieve this goal and decentralise control away from the few juggernauts that dominate the online attention of users.

4) Regulation — Lack of regulation or need for licenses/permissions was a great benefit and key driving factor in expansion of the web, however we have reached a point where the rules of the game need to be clarified. Business need to be able to guarantee customers a standard of security and privacy to thrive.

5) Snooping — Gov’t snooping needs to be checked by stronger regulation. Privacy of user data should only be violated based on specific conditions and legal court orders. More critically consumers and rights groups need to be more aware of corporate snooping (with commercial rather than security motives) and how this impacts user privacy.

6) Digital rights — On a wider note Sir Tim Berners-Lee is pushing for an internet ‘magna carta’. The core notion is to create an international digital bill of rights to protect users. There is some international momentum around this theme with theAfrican Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms and various other moves in the US and EU. On a personal note it will be interesting to see how many nations would sign-up to such a bill of rights and how it would work in less democratic regimes.

7) Digital democracy — Currently our democracy (in the UK/EU/USA etc) is based on a geographical dimension, however we are missing an exciting opportunity for wider democratic action via the web. National/regional institutions could be elected/formed via the web and this could be especially powerful to create groups focusing on specific issues (Berners-Lee gave an example of a UK wide body focused simply on addressing potholes, with people genuinely interested and expert in the issue being elected/congregating to address the issue).

8) Net neutrality — Ensuring the web stays open with the ability for any user to connect to any other user or commercial service or organisation is key to keeping the web free. The ability for commercial internet providers to skew the playing field in their favour by limiting access to competitors (e.g. preventing their customers from accessing competing streaming movie services) is a huge threat to the web (read more about net neutrality).

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