Does Berners-Lee Not Go Far Enough?
Data Privacy and Security

Does Berners-Lee Not Go Far Enough?

A straw poll we ran to 130 IT and business professionals earlier this year showed that 83% of you believe “it is time for an international data protection and privacy governance framework”.  Today Jon Collins comments on Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s call for an internet “bill of rights”.

In reference to the kind of governance we need in this post-Snowden world, it’s not particularly surprising that the Magna Carta has been cited yet again - this time by inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. As we all scrabble around ourselves for historical points of reference, it is inevitable that we end up with the document seen as the root of all power-capping legislation. While it was of only limited scope in itself, the Magna Carta is the skyhook of rights, the touchstone of how we, as individuals, can curtail the tendencies of both state and corporation to invade the privacy of citizens and consumers alike.

The appetite for a “bill of rights” is strong (as illustrated by our own poll). But do Berners-Lee’s proposals go far enough? His Web-we-want initiative, which celebrates “the free, open, universal Web”, presents a laudable remit, covering net neutrality, data privacy and open standards. The Web needs to be free, goes the Web-we-want argument, and very sound it is too.

Trouble is, there is more to the future than communications. Consider, for example, the continued explosion in use of CCTV - is this part of the Web? How about the fact that Ukrainian citizens were sent warnings by text, when their mobile phones were in the vicinity of demonstrations - is SMS part of the Web as well? Advocates might argue yes on both counts, but others will disagree and even contemplating such a debate takes valuable time away from the main issues.

Fundamentally the issue is about the data, as I presented back in January (having arrived at my own Magna Carta epiphany). Data can emerge from many quarters and be distributed across a range of transports. Just as the UK Data Protection Act struggles to differentiate between whether a printout needs to be controlled in the same way as an online record, so we need to recognise that the message is of greater importance than any one medium.

Of course, without the Web we might not be at this juncture right now. But technology was already starting to encroach upon personal freedoms before it, and will continue to do so even if it is superseded. Our data is not something ‘out there’ that needs to be protected separately - it is a fundamental part of all of us, and needs to be treated accordingly. 



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Jon Collins

Jon Collins is an analyst and principal advisor at Inter Orbis. He has over 25 years in experience of the tech sector, having worked as an IT manager, software consultant, project manager and training manager among other roles. Jon’s published work covers security, governance, project management but also includes books on music, including works on Rush, Mike Oldfield and Marillion. See More

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