Tim Berners-Lee hits out at UK and US web surveillance

Web pioneer scoops engineering prize, castigates government spying.

Internet search

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has declared internet freedoms must be maintained and stopped from being controlled by governments and corporations.

The web inventor condemned the sweeping surveillance used by governments on the internet, in an article in The Times, adding that authorities are compromising a tool that is "important in people's survival".

"In the Middle East, people have been given access to the internet but they have been snooped on and then they have been jailed," he said.

"Obviously, it can be easy for people in the West to say, 'oh, those nasty governments should not be allowed access to spy'. But it's clear that developed nations are seriously spying on the Internet." 

He said that anonymity and privacy was crucial to the online community and may well be reluctant to share information with others following revelations around Prism.

This is not the first time he's spoken out about the Prism scandal and web surveillance, as he recently admitted to finding reports about the programme "deeply concerning."

Sir Tim made the comments before accepting the Queen Elizabeth engineering prize at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace. He was awarded it alongside four others: Robert Kahn, Vint Cerf, Louis Pouzin and Marc Andreessen.

The men were awarded the prizes in part for starting a "communications revolution which has changed the world".

Lord Broers, judging panel chair, said: "Engineering is, by its very nature, a collaborative activity and the emergence of the internet and the web involved many teams of people all over the world.

"However, these five visionary engineers, never before honoured together as a group, led the key developments that shaped the internet and web as a coherent system and brought them into public use."

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "It makes me proud the UK is host to this international prize. Engineering is about growth and progress for both the economy and society - bringing vast improvements in people's lives.

"The internet and the web are prime examples of this - engineering innovations that have enabled new industries, a huge number of jobs and enabled the world and its people to access education and knowledge as never before."

 Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf established Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) while Louis Pouzin devised the early packets communication network CYCLADES. Sir Tim Berner-Lee invented the worldwide web and Marc Andreessen co-authored Mosaic, the first web browser.

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