back to article Berners-Lee: WWW is spy net

Inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has warned that the internet has become the "world's largest surveillance network." Speaking at the Decentralized Web Summit conference in San Francisco run by the Internet Archive, the engineer joined other internet notables including "father of the internet" Vint Cerf and …

  1. LDS Silver badge

    Who's this Berners-Lee to complain?

    Does he believe he invented the Internet? Google did it! Or maybe Facebook!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who's this Berners-Lee to complain?

      It was Al Gore.

    2. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Who's this Berners-Lee to complain?

      A quote from RFC1630, "Universal Resource Identifiers in WWW", June 1994:

      "Security Considerations

      Security issues are not discussed in this memo.

      Author's Address

      Tim Berners-Lee

      World-Wide Web project


      1211 Geneva 23,


      1. energystar

        Re: Who's this Berners-Lee to complain?

        What security considerations had Bell Labs on the phone? Come on!

        Those came on later Requests for Comments. An those -indeed- are addendum.

        RfC: 3986 Uniform Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax, Standards Track.

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Who's this Berners-Lee to complain?

        Expecting people to discuss security considerations of URLs in 1994?


        Well, it WAS the dark harbinger times of the Freeh FBI, Attorney General Janet Reno, the Clipper Chip (and also the X-Files), but you can't fault people for not pulling in information from the future about technology that doesn't even exist yet and discuss it in an RFC that is basically orthogonal to the not-as-yet-formed security considerations.

        Let's check the covers of "Communications of the ACM" of 1994 to see how far away that year is now: "Hypermedia" is featured in February and "Internet Technology" in August

  2. NoneSuch Silver badge

    The only way is to reinvent the web with strong (non-American) encryption at every stage and laws to protect privacy at every hub.

    Want access to an individuals info on a hub, get a court sponsored warrant.

    It's beer o'clock.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Non-American? Well that'll be AES (aka Rijndael, invented by a couple of Belgians).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Identity Problem

      We cannot do a decent job of radically improving the Internet without also solving the Person Identification Problem. Machines cannot tell with any reliability when a user is, or is not, who they say they are.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Identity Problem


        One of the key issues with web anonymity is exactly that - it is not really anonymous when you do not supply credentials. I'd rather have a system which has working authentication when you supply them and is properly anonymous when you do not instead of the current wild west hodge-podge.

        So that is indeed the case - funnily enough, the key to web anonymity is exactly that - web authentication, and modding the parent post down will not change that at all.

  3. Mage Silver badge

    We don't have a technology problem; we have a social problem.


    We do have the problem that for email that security and white-listing to allow a sender should have been in the design from the start.

    We do have the problem that on WWW, security is an afterthought and defaults of all browsers are wrong, cookies, scripts, microphone, webcam, popups etc all should need white listed on a subdomain basis.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We don't have a technology problem; we have a social problem.

      "We do have the problem that for email that security and white-listing to allow a sender should have been in the design from the start."

      Well I guess you use a mail service put together by a corp to harvest your data for profit, a free service or a cheapo provider. The one I use has amongst other features, the ability to only accept email from whitelisted addresses. Pretty easy to setup one up for yourself too.

  4. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    A sea of sewage

    We're all swimming in a sea of sewage these days - unless you want to retreat to the wilder parts of the world and live in a cave. The answer is simply to live your life is if someone is always watching - because they are and you do not have the option of switching them off. You can bitch about this all you like but like the rain, if it's raining, you're going to get wet whether you complain or not - so complaining don't help.

    For those moment when you wish to retire from the world - simply turn everything off, put your cell phones and electronics into a metal box. Site back, read a book (real one with paper pages) and smell the roses.

    1. Dadmin

      Re: A sea of sewage

      And now we know what people who "don't care enough to notice there is a real problem and wouldn't do anything about it anyway" think. Brill.

    2. Lars Silver badge

      Re: A sea of sewage

      I am OK with books and even roses, but don't you think you are a bit "fatalistic". Why live when we die anyway, why speak when nobody listens, why bother about democracy when it doesn't work anyway, why use an umbrella when it's never to be found when you need one anyway. Cheer up.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: A sea of sewage

        I wouldn't say fatalistic, more rational in the face of the asymmetry of power/resources here. Now what you, little Ole you, can do is have a bit of fun, playing with the tiger's tail. That's what I do. Just be prepared for the claws and teeth.

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge

    HTTP isn't really very distributed

    It identifies a file on a server, not the data itself.

    A better protocol would be one which identifies data that you own (e.g. some kind of Facebook-like feed, photo album, piece of music you composed, whatever). You publish that data and it is automatically encrypted and replicated to servers around the world. Anyone with the right URL (and credentials if necessary) would be able to view it. Or you could withdraw publication and it would be deleted from servers. If a server went down it wouldn't affect you as the data could be retrieved from elsewhere.

    That's my great idea, all I need to do is code the daemon, get everyone with a backbone server to run it, get them to cough up for storage too, probably change DNS a bit as well, then become a billionaire.

  6. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has warned that the internet has become the "world's largest surveillance network."

    I think that was a "no shit, Sherlock" moment for everyone.

    1. energystar

      Tim is a Scientist Guy...

      The news is precisely that. The creator acknowledging that there are problems in Paradise. An act of Courage and Integrity.

      But it's not up to Him to re-model what amounts now to a technological Kraken. Neither his responsibility.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Tim is a Scientist Guy...

        As Captain Nemo once said when his Boot was grabbed by the Kraken:

        Frenchman: "It got us. What are you going to do?"

        Nemo: "We shall surface and eliminate the whole brood!"

        Not a Green Attitude, but there you go.

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Tim is a Scientist Guy...

          Well said, DAM.

  7. energystar

    Thanks a lot for your Restatement on WWW as a P2P philosophy, Tim.

    Knowing you doing so puts you -at today's Environment- on the Eye of the Storm. This is going to be [as far as can thinker with it] the best route to a healthy global village.

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    There is no money in "decentral"

    Everybody always wants to be The Indispensable One With The Asymmetric Information Advantage And the Interface With Rounded Corners so that toll barriers can be erected or advertisements targetially pushed on the road to utter & total consumer bliss. While three-letter agencies slurp the doubtlessly secure database.

  9. energystar

    "The problem is the dominance of..."

    Wasn't the real problem the apparent Cartelization [of late] of W3C Works?

    1. energystar

      Appearances have a long history of causing Real Problems:

      Apparently there were WofMD inside Iraq.

  10. jake Silver badge

    Bottom line ... DUH!

    ... the network that became "The Internet" (NCP) was built as a research network to research networking. We went from NCP to TCP/IP overnight, resulting in no hiccups on Flag Day (January 1, 1983). Under ten years of research, probably 4 years of fiddling with "live" sub-nets, and about a year of the entire research network just working.

    Everything still worked nicely, right from the git-go after FlagDay. Granted, most users of TehIntraWebTubes had clues back then. Today? Maybe not so much.

    Unfortunately, the TCP/IP version went from an open research network, built to research networking, to the publicly available, unreliable, and completely unsecurable cluster-fuck that TheGreatUnwashed[tm] latched onto in order to swap porn, cat pics, really bad videos, worse music, and the dreadful minutia of sad lives.

    The consumer Internet is not securable. This has been known since before the WorldWideWeb existed ...

    I fully expect the (not very)"social" media set to downvote this post in droves.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bottom line ... DUH!

      Don't worry about downvotes. Commentards are usually pretty anti-social.

    2. energystar
      Paris Hilton

      "The consumer Internet is not securable."

      Should We detach the consumer Internet? Down to the tubes?

      1. energystar

        Should We detach the Consumer Internet?

        You know? You could have a pretty interesting aspect here. 'Consumer Internet' is the Monetizing Game of Big Actors. Can't see a scenario were Consumers could be moved to lease a 'Consumer Internet Only' data line.

        'Consumer Internet' is able to reach Us because it's piggy backed to the Original Internet. In that sense, Original Internet, even without the Tons of Cash, Dominates.

      2. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: "The consumer Internet is not securable."

        Lexus Nexus was such.

        1. jake Silver badge

          @ecofeco (was:Re: "The consumer Internet is not securable.")

          LexusNexus isn't exactly "consumer", now is it?

          It's also not secure, contrary to popular belief.

  11. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    We do have a technology problem

    "The problem is the dominance of one search engine, one social network, one Twitter for micro-blogging. We don't have a technology problem; we have a social problem."

    Many of us manage quite nicely without the "social" network or a place to micro-blog. Those are indeed social problems inas muchas so many people seem to believe that their private lives have to be managed by a third party and managed in public.

    However, using the internet without a decent search engine would be hard and it does appear that building a decent search engine is a bit of a technology problem, because all the alternatives are either shit or re-badging Google (or both, in the most depressing cases).

    1. Bloakey1

      Re: We do have a technology problem


      "Many of us manage quite nicely without the "social" network or a place to micro-blog. "


      Amen to that. A lot of us did mighty fine using bulletin boards and the Internet (Usenet etc.)while all around us people were using glitzy AOL and Compuserve 8 bit connections. then this bastard called Tim came along and messed up our halcyon existance by inventing the WWW. 'Apres moi la deluge!' A deluge of semi literate users and Compuserve and AOL setup disks.

      Tongue, cheek, firmly , in !!

  12. Christian Berger

    It's all to difficult

    I mean the early web still was acceptably easy to code for. Essentially you had HTML which was a moderately simple markup language and you had no way of determining how it would actually look on the browser. And if you weren't smart enough for that, you could use Netscape Navigator Gold, which could not just display, but also edit web pages. You then uploaded the result onto the FTP-server of your ISP and had a website.

    Today websites seem to be more and more complex. It's not just HTML, but also a completely different language (CSS) to define how it should look like. And today your browser expects you to actually design how it looks like. To make it work on differently sized screens, you actually need to use yet another language (JS) to mess with your layout. I don't know if HTML GUI editors still exist, but I doubt you can translate the complexity into them.

    The result is that people don't make their own websites any more. If they want to blag into the world, they use a blog hoster. If they want to offer details of their life, they use a social network, etc.

    1. A Ghost

      Re: It's all to difficult

      The result is that people don't make their own websites any more. If they want to blag into the world, they use a blog hoster. If they want to offer details of their life, they use a social network, etc.

      No. You've got the wrong end of the stick.

      Before there were a few people. They were the techie adventurers. They built websites.

      Today, there are many more people. They are not tech adventurers, nor often tech-literate. They are incapable of building websites.

      It's not like there was loads of people before using the net and now they just decided to stop building websites. Most people today, who use the internet would never even consider building their own website.

      But yes, they do take advantage of fb and blogger and whatnot, so you have that right. But there's no way that they would ever consider opening a book on HTML, let alone PHP etc. if they didn't exist. They just aren't that driven or have that much to say. The ones who are will find a way, always did, always will.

      I must admit that in the very beginning of the intenet, I and practically everyone else saw it as a force for good and real change. We didn't see this coming. A few did, but they really were labeled tin-foilers.

      But it didn't take long to see which way the wind was blowing. The writing has been on the wall for well over a decade, and what is happening now was seen to be inevitable, even that far back. The worrying this is, things can be extrapolated further, and it is only going to get worse now. The internet is finished. Unfortunately it will be illegal not to have it in a few years, along with the banning of vpn for private use.

      I think even the most ardently optimistic hold-out would agree that 2016 (if not 2015) was the year freedom ended for society at large and we entered into a totalitarian dictatorship. We just don't know who the real dictator is, as they hide behind politicians who provide the smoke show. Cameron, May et al are lackies and lick-spittles to their masters, mercenaries who will persecute their own population for a nice life safe from harm. Everyone works in their own best interests, granted, but this is evil greed beyond any rational form of avarice (if avarice if ever rational).

      The government from the top down are abusing their population, but they are in a bubble because they have total power and are getting away with it with impunity, so they do it more. They feel invincible. I doubt there will be a revolution as most people are broken and beaten by this point. But there are a lot of feral and unreasonable people out there subscribing to the politics of envy and getting sick of having their noses rubbed in their own impotency and poverty. When those people kick off, there will be blood. It starts again probably a bit later this summer, maybe next, with riots that will dwarf what we have seen in recent years. Then maybe the big one in a few years time. I think it could happen. But I don't think the people in charge think it is possible.

      The forcing of the internet on to people so that they can claim benefits and other essential services and the selling of that information, is about the worse abuse you can do to a human short of stealing their posessions, or raping them, or murdering them. At least that is how I feel about my medical records being available to anyone that wants a look. And some of those people wish me genuine harm, as I am in conflict with them. But I don't get access to their records. FOIRs are suddenly not allowed, recorded conversations on the phone go missing when it proves your point. One is at a total disadvantage.

      Sorry, Christian, I went off on a bit of a tangent again. I was hoping to be tersely pedantic in regard to your small point, but the blood started boiling.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: It's all to difficult

        +1 Nice rant

        The revolution will not be tweeted.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: It's all to difficult

      Dreamweaver still exists. So does a Linux version of the old Netscape Composer. Both still work. Both still let you write and edit HTML as well as WYSIWYG GUI.

      You still need to be clever to use them effectively and make small file size pages, but as I've said many times, most website code is bloated shit and clever is now measured by how convoluted you make something and not by efficiency.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This does assume that the data they are spying on is true. According to fb I swam the channel when I was 3, gave up chain smoking when I was 10, and work in Springfield's nuclear reactor core. It pleases me no end to think of their bots trying to sell my data. I get lots of friend requests from call girls in Oregon :-)

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