World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee has said that the internet has fallen into the hands of large corporations and governments and become the “world’s largest surveillance network”.
Berners-Lee explained in an interview with The New York Times that his invention has steadily come under the control of powerful interests.
“It controls what people see. It creates mechanisms for how people interact. It’s been great, but spying, blocking sites, repurposing people’s content, taking you to the wrong websites completely undermines the spirit of helping people create,” he said.
“The problem is the dominance of one search engine, one big social network, one Twitter for microblogging.”
Berners-Lee met a group of internet activists this week, including Brewster Kahle, head of the Internet Archive, and fellow internet pioneer Vint Cerf, in San Francisco at the Decentralized Web Summit to discuss ways of “re-decentralising” the internet, giving more control to individuals and ensuring more privacy and security.
It is a subject that he has returned to time and again. Berners-Lee attended the launch of the documentary ForEveryone.net at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and talked about the importance of defending net neutrality in an age when technology allows unprecedented control of the world’s communications.
“The temptation to grab control of the internet by the government or by a company is always going to be there. They will wait until we’re sleeping, because if you’re a government or a company and you can control something, you’ll want it,” he said.
“You want to control your citizens or exploit consumers. The temptation is huge. Yes, we can have things enshrined in law, but even then it won’t necessarily stop people.”
Berners-Lee continued with this theme in a recent interview with GeekWire. “We’re on the edge of finding that a company can get to the point where actually it will control everything everybody sees,” he said.
“It will decide which friends’ posts and which news articles a person sees, and we realise that we’re talking about one big corporation suddenly having complete control over somebody’s view of the planet on which they live. It’s a constant battle and we are very close to it all the time.”