08 November 2013

We really should pay attention to these guys

I know precious little about the World Wide Web other than that it serves me royally. Tim Berners-Lee, on the other hand, knows a lot about it. And he should—he invented it. He is a leading authority on the power and the vulnerabilities of the Internet, uniquely qualified to comment on Internet spying.

And he is now profoundly concerned about just that. He has made some very strong statements about the mischief the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart, GCHQ, have been up to, expressing particular outrage that they have weakened online security by cracking much of the encryption millions of people rely on to guard their Internet privacy. He has pointed out that breaking the encryption software plays into the hands of cyber criminals and hostile groups. "It is naïve to imagine," he said, "that if you introduce a weakness into a system you will be the only one to use it." In effect, he is suggesting the agencies are undermining the very security they are supposed to be protecting.

While British Prime Minister David Cameron calls for an investigation of The Guardian for publishing Edward Snowden's revelations, Berners-Lee declares, "It seems clear that The Guardian's reporting around the scale and scope of state surveillance has been in the public interest and has uncovered many important issues which now need a full and frank public debate." Indeed.

As for Snowden, Berners-Lee suggests that whistleblowers are the only practical guards against excess by the security agencies and called for an international system of protection for them.

Joining Berners-Lee in his criticism of the spymaster is another gentleman with exceptional web knowledge, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Wales claims that the massive surveillance of global communications networks will cause serious damage to the American cloud computing industry. "If you are BMW, a car maker in Germany ... you probably are not that comfortable putting your data into the U.S. any more," he said. He also suggested that it will be harder to convince nations like China to respect basic freedoms and privacy. The Chinese, he said, will now have "every excuse to be as bad as they have been ... It's really embarrassing. It's an enormous problem, an enormous danger."

A lot of people have something to say about Snowden's revelations, but these two guys stand out. They know what they are talking about like few others and they have no bones to pick. We should pay close attention.

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