Web creator Tim Berners Lee says UK government asking for “too much power to spy on its citizens”

The inventor of the world wide web Tim Berners Lee has called the Investigatory Powers Bill ‘inappropriate’ and urged members of the public to write to their MPs about it.


Speaking to The Economist radio on the openness of the web, Berners Lee said:

“There are a huge number of fronts on which we have to battle. For example making sure that countries don’t introduce laws that decrease the power of the citizen... don’t pass inappropriate laws, as the UK government is trying to do at the moment, to give the government too much power to spy on citizens.”

He later told members of the public to write to their MPs and raise their concerns about the BIll. The full interview is available here: https://soundcloud.com/theeconomist/the-economist-asks-can-the-open-web-survive

MPs are expected to vote on the IPBill in less than two weeks. This week Labour secured an independent review of the Bill’s bulk powers, which include powers for the mass collection of our personal data, hacking on a mass scale and the analysis of databases that hold our private information. However, there are many other controversial aspects to the Bill, including proposals to record UK citizens’ web browsing history, which could cost more than £1 billion. These costs, which would fall to the Home Office, could be the equivalent cost of employing 3,000 full-time police officers at a time of officer cuts.[1]  

Berners-Lees comments come weeks after privacy and free speech campaigners warned MPs that the IPBill was more suited to countries like Russia and China. The Don’t Spy on Us coalition issued a series of adverts highlighting that the Bill would mean that the UK has the most extreme surveillance law of any democracy in the world. https://www.dontspyonus.org.uk

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, said:

“When the inventor of the web, says that the IPBill is inappropriate, we hope that the Government will pay attention. Tim Berners-Lee is one in a long line of experts who  have voiced concerns about the spying powers that the Bill will give the Government. We still have a chance to amend this legislation and make sure that the UK has a law that is fit for a democracy not a dictatorship.”

For more information, contact press@openrightsgroup.org

Notes to Editor

[1] This estimate of the UK bill for Internet Connection Records  is based on the cost of a new, parallel scheme for ICR retention in Denmark, which has now been dropped on costs grounds.  

The Danish Government recently shelved similar proposals to monitor Danish citizens’ web browsing history, after it was confirmed that it would cost DKK 1bn (approx £105 million) to implement the scheme. This figure was for equipment investment alone and did not include annual operation costs to retain the records: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmpublic/investigatorypowers/Memo/IPB20.htm

Ernst & Young were commissioned by the Danish government to look into industry concerns over the costs of collecting ICRs. Their findings supported industry claims.

Based on these findings, the cost of implementing ICRs in the UK could be more than a billion pounds.  The UK population (64.1 million) is more than eleven times’ Denmark’s (5.6 million). Average police officer pay falls between £28,000 - £31,000 with onboard costs of around 20% including pension and national insurance. The figure of 3,000 police officer jobs is equivalent to cutting 3,000 police officers earning £29,000 per annum plus onboard costs over a ten year period

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