Sir Tim Berners-Lee aims to untangle the web of data misuse

Sir Tim Berners-Lee at conference

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world-wide-web, is launching a new platform to put personal data back into the hands of users and away from the big tech companies.

The internet pioneer has been working with engineers at MIT on 'Solid', which is an open source project born from his own startup called 'inrupt'. The aim of the project is to enable users to have more autonomy over their personal data, allowing them to decide where it goes, who sees it and what apps can access it.

"I've always believed the web is for everyone. That's why I and others fight fiercely to protect it," he said. "The changes we've managed to bring have created a better and more connected world.

"But for all the good we've achieved, the web has evolved into an engine of inequality and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas. Today, I believe we've reached a critical tipping point and that powerful change for the better is possible and necessary."

This critical tipping point he speaks of can be seen in the many news stories of misuse, breaches or manipulation of online data that have become commonplace in our daily lives and has, arguably, resulted in the creation of the GDPR.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal proved a watershed moment for personal data after it was revealed the company harvested the data of more than 50 million Facebook users without their consent. The fallout of which has sparked global debate about how personal data is used online.

Teaming up with entrepreneur John Bruce on their startup inrupt, Berners-Lee has developed the Solid decentralised web project. The model keeps user data, such as identity, posts, photos, in pods where it can only be accessed by the user, rather than Facebook or Twitter being able to keep user data centralised as a product for third parties.

According to Berners-Lee, Solid changes the current internet model where users have to hand over personal data to digital giants in exchange for perceived value. Instead, he wants to evolve the web and restore balance by giving everyone complete control over their data.

The two hope that this open sourced project can be widely implemented and help to create another tipping point for personal data and the internet, one that addresses the current balance and puts the general public in charge of their digital identities.

Berners-Lee has taken a sabbatical from his work at MIT and reduced his involvement in the World Wide Web Consortium to found inrupt, where he will now concentrate his efforts into Solid and, as he puts it, building a system that works for everyone.

"The future is still so much bigger than the past," he said.

Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.