Tag Archives: personal data sharing

Sir Tim Berners-Lee: Loss of personal data control is an Internet tragedy

The loss of control over personal data sharing is one of the three biggest threats to the world wide web as it currently exists, according to its founder.

Writing an open letter in The Guardian to mark the 28th anniversary of his creation, when he wrote the initial proposal for what became the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee said he has become increasingly worried over the past year about three new trends, which he believes  “we must tackle in order for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool that serves all of humanity.”

And he is keen to see personal data control put back in the hands of those who create it as a major step to solving the first one.

Regarding this first point, loss of personal control of data, he wrote: “The current business model for many websites offers free content in exchange for personal data. Many of us agree to this – albeit often by accepting long and confusing terms and conditions documents – but fundamentally we do not mind some information being collected in exchange for free services.

But, we’re missing a trick. As our data is then held in proprietary silos, out of sight to us, we lose out on the benefits we could realise if we had direct control over this data and chose when and with whom to share it.

“What’s more, we often do not have any way of feeding back to companies what data we’d rather not share – especially with third parties – the T&Cs are all or nothing.”

This, of course, chimes 100 per cent with the Internet of Me vision (image above), where individuals at the centre of their connected world are in charge of their data and what is shared and with whom.

This ideal world, as well as being at the heart of our personal data and company mission, will also be front and centre of the next version of our app, which will allow both more streams of data to be collected in a private library, and the capability for sharing slices of data with directly with companies for personalised rewards.

Sir Tim goes on to point out that this widespread data collection by companies has other impacts, notably increasingly giving goverments the ability to watch our every move online, which creates a chilling effect on free speech.

Combined with the two other major issues of the web making it too easy to spread misinformation and the need for greater transparency in online political advertising, he writes: “These are complex problems, and the solutions will not be simple. But a few broad paths to progress are already clear.

“We must work together with web companies to strike a balance that puts a fair level of data control back in the hands of people, including the development of new technology such as personal “data pods” if needed and exploring alternative revenue models such as subscriptions and micropayments.”

Ultimately, he said: “It has taken all of us to build the web we have, and now it is up to all of us to build the web we want – for everyone.”