Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor the the World Wide Web, has slammed the UK government's plans to allow intelligence agencies to monitor digital communications, and has called for the proposed legislation to be halted.
In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Berners-Lee said the extension of the state's surveillance powers would be a “destruction of human rights,” adding that it would make a huge amount of personal information vulnerable to theft or release by corrupt officials.
The government drew the ire of civil liberties campaigners earlier this month, when it emerged that it was planning to let GCHQ monitor email and social media communications in real time, as well as logging every site visited by internet users in Britain without a warrant.
The plans were described as “dangerous, expensive and wrong” by Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, and several MPs warned that the powers would allow the government to spy on innocent people.
Berners-Lee, who serves as an adviser to the government on how to make public data more accessible, told The Guardian that allowing intelligence agencies to monitor internet activity would give them an “amazing” amount of control over UK citizens.
“You get to know every detail; you get to know, in a way, more intimate details about their life than any person that they talk to, because often people will confide in the internet,” said Berners-Lee.
“The most important thing to do is to stop the bill as it is at the moment,” he said, adding that, if the bill goes ahead, it will be essential to establish a “very strong independent body” to investigate every use of the surveillance powers.
The condemnation will undoubtedly create a headache for home secretary Theresa May, who has defended the proposals by emphasising their use in tracking down terrorists and paedophiles. May has said she plans to press on with introducing the new measures after the Queen's speech next month.
Berners-Lee is a staunch defender of internet freedoms, having previously criticised social networks such as Facebook for walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the web.
“The more this kind of architecture gains widespread use, the more the web becomes fragmented – and the less we enjoy a single, universal information space,” he told the Scientific American Journal in 2010.