IT Pro is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Tim Berners-Lee slams encryption-busting surveillance agencies

Inventor of World Wide Web brands decision “appalling and foolish."

Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist who invented the World Wide Web, has hit out at spies who cracked encryption to monitor communications on the internet.

His comments, made in an interview with The Guardian, come ahead of a the first ever appearance of the heads of UK intelligence agencies MI5, MI6 and GCHQ together in front of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee at 2.00pm today.

Referring to the Prism internet monitoring scandal, Berners-Lee said the decision by spy agencies in the UK and US to crack open encrypted communications was both "appalling and foolish." He added that it was also counterproductive for their efforts to fight cyber crime and cyber warfare as it weakens online security.

"It's nave to imagine that if you introduce a weakness into a system you will be the only one to use it," Berners-Lee said, likening the behaviour of the agencies to those of a totalitarian state," he said. 

"Any democratic country has to take the high road; it has to live by its principles. I'm very sympathetic to attempts to increase security against organised crime, but you have to distinguish yourself from the criminal." 

He also slammed the oversight of surveillance by UK and US authorities as "dysfunctional and unaccountable," while commending the Guardian's reporting on the issue of Prism and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

GCHQ is descended from the UK Governmenr Code & Cypher School (GC&CS), which was founded during the First World War and whose employees, including Alan Turing, famously broke the German Enigma Code during the Second World War.

IT Pro will be reporting the news from the Intelligence and Security Committee hearing later today.

Featured Resources

The state of Salesforce: Future of business

Three articles that look forward into the changing state of Salesforce and the future of business

Free Download

The mighty struggle to migrate SAP to the cloud may be over

A simplified and unified approach to delivering Enterprise Transformation in the cloud

Free Download

The business value of the transformative mainframe

Modernising on the mainframe

Free Download

The Total Economic Impact™ Of IBM FlashSystem

Cost savings and business benefits enabled by FlashSystem

Free Download

Recommended

What is the semantic web?
Business strategy

What is the semantic web?

8 Jun 2022
US gov issues fresh warning over Russian threat to critical infrastructure
cyber warfare

US gov issues fresh warning over Russian threat to critical infrastructure

12 Jan 2022
UK and US pledge to punish cyber criminals at annual meeting
cyber security

UK and US pledge to punish cyber criminals at annual meeting

19 Nov 2021

Most Popular

Why convenience is the biggest threat to your security
Sponsored

Why convenience is the biggest threat to your security

8 Aug 2022
How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode
Microsoft Windows

How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode

29 Jul 2022
Microsoft successfully tests emission-free hydrogen fuel cell system for data centres
data centres

Microsoft successfully tests emission-free hydrogen fuel cell system for data centres

29 Jul 2022