Friday, March 21, 2008






Watch out if you are surfing the Net. The father of the World Wide Web has cautioned that his brainchild has become one of the biggest, most permanent data “archives” in human history.

Nearly two decades after inventing the World Wide Web, TIM BERNERS-LEE stepped into the increasingly frenzied debate over internet privacy with a warning to surfers jealously to guard their personal space with one eye on the future.

Berners-Lee has long admitted that he never realized the potential and scale of his invention when he thought up a project based on the concept of hypertext to facilitate information-sharing among researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory known as CERN.

But on Monday, the 17th March 2008, he cautioned the world’s multiplying millions of surfers on its destructive potential in the future. Personal data, he said, was precious and deeply personal and should never be put on website, not least social networking ones suck as Facebook and My-Space.

Surfers should think of their future grandchildren reading the archived net data, he said, in a reminder that the internet has a longevity that goes beyond inscriptions on stone tablets, rock etchings and papyrus. “Imagine that everything you are typing is being read by the person you are applying to for your first job. Imagine that it’s all going to be seen by your parents and your grandparents and your grandchildren, as well.”

Berners-Lee’s comments are seen to underline increasingly acute anxiety about individual privacy in so public a space as the World Wide Web. Already, Facebook and My-Space have recorded their first fall in new and continuous users in their second-most popular base, the UK, as surfers grapple with issues of privacy and data retention.

Berners-Lee compounded his warning on the perils of the Net with an indictment of its creeping commercialization by big businesses, who snoop on surfers.

Striking a blow for net neutrality, he said consumers needed to be protected against systems which can track their surfing activity. Describing ongoing controversial moves to institutionalize and legitimize tracking services, he said his data and web history belonged to him. “It’s mine-you can’t have it. If you want to use it for something, then you have to negotiate with me. I have to agree, I have to understand what I am getting in return.”

Internet service providers, he said, were supposed to supply a neutral service just like water companies supply water to a property.

Berners-Lee’s opposition to web tracking comes amid plans by some of Britain’s leading internet providers to use Phorm, a tracking company to create personalized adverts.

But the father of the web said this constituted a serious breach of privacy and raised the spectre of a web-based big brother watching all of us, at our peril. Surfers who visit sites about cancer could find their health insurance premiums going up because of some deduced ill health, he warned.

Phase two of the web, said Berners-Lee, would include sorely-needed guidance of its future because there are more web pages now than neurons in the human brain, yet the shape and growth of the web were still not properly understood. “We should look out for snags in the future,” Berners-Lee said of his creation, pointing to spam e-mail as an example of things going wrong. “Things can change so fast on the internet.”

[DISCLAIMER- Dear readers, the above article has been included as an excerpt from a recent news article published in The Times of India , as we think that it is of prime utility and supreme interest to the internet users the world over.]

However, we would like to advise the net surfers to be utterly prudent and cautious about putting personal data on websites, while surfing the internet, as it is now an emphatically established fact that personal data is highly vulnerable to tracking or hacking or even unauthorized misuse if posted on websites with insecure connections, and whether it is still safe on websites with secure connections is an even bigger and more sensitive issue that now remains to be addressed by the web gurus, in the aftermath of the jolting revelation by none other than the father of the World Wide Web, himself.

Finally, as a contextual appendix, the age-old wisdom that every invention registered by the human brain invariably carries its pros and cons, stands vindicated. It is for the users to exercise prudence while using it.

- CEO, Zillion 2nd Innings

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