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The web’s creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee has told the BBC that UK plans to weaken encryption are wrong and he also promised to battle any moves by the Trump administration to weaken net neutrality.
As he was accepting the Turing Award Sir Tim said moves to undermine encryption would be a “bad idea” and represent a massive security breach.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said there should be no safe space for terrorists to be able to communicate online. But Sir Tim said giving the authorities a key to unlock coded messages would have serious consequences. “Now I know that if you’re trying to catch terrorists it’s really tempting to demand to be able to break all that encryption but if you break that encryption then guess what – so could other people and guess what – they may end up getting better at it than you are,” he said.
Sir Tim also criticised moves on both sides of the Atlantic that he sees as an assault on the privacy of web users. He attacked the UK’s recent Investigatory Powers Act: “The idea that all ISPs should be required to spy on citizens and hold the data for six months is appalling.”
In the United States he is concerned that the principle of net neutrality, which treats all internet traffic equally, could be watered down by the Trump administration and the Federal Communications Commission. “If the FCC does move to reduce net neutrality I will fight it as hard as I can,” he vowed.
He also said he was shocked by the direction the US Congress and Senate had taken when they voted to scrap laws preventing internet service providers from selling users’ data. He said privacy online was as important as the trust between a doctor and a patient.