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Web Creator Calls the Online Privacy Rollback ‘Disgusting’

The decision of the US Congress and President Trump’s administration to allow internet service providers (ISPs) to abandon their customer privacy and sell users’ browsing habits is “disgusting,” according to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the world wide web.

Speaking to The Guardian after receiving the Turing award (often referred to as the Nobel Prize of computing), Sir Tim used the interview to express his concerns about recent online developments on both sides on the Atlantic. He said politicians’ attitude toward the internet was “really appalling” and that users were in danger.

The Web: From the Beginning to Now

Berners-Lee came up with the idea for the web while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in the late 1980s, as a means for scientists and researchers to cooperate and share information. He introduced a naming system (URIs), a communications protocol (HTTP), and a language for creating webpages (HTML). This work built on the foundation developed by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, who had invented TCP/IP in the early 1980s.

Sir Tim has been working on improving the web ever since, continuously campaigning for internet freedom and privacy. His latest statement came as President Donald Trump signed into law the measure repealing the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) online privacy rules passed back in October 2016. “That bill was a disgusting bill, because when we use the web, we are so vulnerable,” Berners-Lee said.

The FCC privacy regulations would have compelled broadband providers to get their customers’ permission before sharing their sensitive data. The discussion surrounding the repeal raised multiple questions on the extent to which ISPs are responsible for protecting the interests of their users.

According to Sir Tim, the problem with the internet is that it can be “ridiculously revealing”. “You have the right to go to a doctor in privacy where it’s just between you and the doctor,” he said. “And similarly, you have to be able to go to the web.”

Wider Controversy

Back in the US, the controversy shows no signs of subsiding. Major service providers like AT&T and Comcast find themselves under growing criticism over their privacy policies. Before Trump signed the bill into law, his own supporters had started a forum demanding a veto on Reddit. That may not be surprising bearing in mind that 75% of Republican voters do not support the bill.

To quote “The Late Show” host Stephen Colbert, “There is not one person, one voter of any political stripe anywhere in America, who asked for this.”

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