Edward Snowden’s leaks have led to global changes that few could have predicted. Many countries learned about U.S. spying and began proposing laws which make international data exchange more difficult, and some aim to ease surveillance. The creator of the World Wide Web has seen these movements and started one of his own to counter act the interference. Sir Tim Bernes-Lee formed the World Wide Web 25 years ago and now works towards instituting bills of rights to help shape what freedoms the Internet will have protected from government and corporate reach in the next 25 years.
Fifteen countries and the European Union are making efforts to restrict international data flow, research has found. These nations, if successful, would lessen security and dampen the future of global connection. Some laws have already been put into action and more proposals are being drafted. Google gave the grant that assisted this research, done by the University of California at Davis School of Law. This study revealed almost every new law and proposal stemmed from what the governments had learned from Snowden about how the U.S. conducts its spying.
“Data localization” is the end goal. Germany attempted to obtain all communication from the networks built within the country. Russia now requires all data from Internet providers to be stored locally. Brazil has a proposal to allow their government to store any data about their citizens, or collect a large fine.
International commerce would be strained and these laws would impose risk of increased surveillance, which would become easier. “We’ll muddle through, but the costs will be in companies that never come into being,” said Anupum Chander, director of the California International Law Center of the university. He defined the governments’ motives behind the new laws as a “rise of efforts to prevent data from leaving shore – it’s the export of data that is now the problem.”
There were similar attempts being made before last year, but since then priorities have shifted. Chander explained that there was a revival and new reinforcement of those efforts and after Snowden. He likened it to impulses that had existed without direct actions, like a trigger that needed justification to be pulled. And the recent revelations served as that justification and pushed governments towards creating the recent rise in legislation.
The release of the NSA’s information turned governments’ eyes towards privacy, a topic that has since been discussed at all tech-based conferences. The World Wide Web’s creator has taken notice, and has working towards reminding both government and corporations that freedom is necessary for all users.
In order to retain those freedoms, the fight to protect the Internet has begun. Sir Tim Bernes-Lee drafted his proposal for the Web while working at CERN in a physics lab. When reflecting on his invention, he said he had no idea about how it would turn out. “It was really important that it could have anything on it, but the idea that it would end up with almost everything on it – that seemed like a crazy idea at the time.”
Recognizing that it does currently store “almost everything,” he seeks to protect both the Internet and the users. Previously an “open, neutral” system, he has created a plan so it remains this way. “We need a global constitution.” He said. The assertion was prompted by the increasing influence upon the Web, from both government and corporations. According to him, there is a lot at risk including a working democracy, open government, decent healthcare, and cultural diversity within intertwining communities. Bernes-Lee pointed out the naivety behind thinking that sitting back could achieve anything currently at risk.
After the leaks last year, Bernes-Lee became critical of American and British surveillance of their citizens and the agencies in charge. His “Magna Carta” efforts are being channeled into “the web we want,” a campaign working towards freedom of speech and belief. “These issues have crept up on us,” he said. “Our rights are being infringed more and more on every side, and the danger is that we get used to it.” The next step is defining the kind of Web the users want for the next 25 years. Through this initiative he hopes to create a bill of rights in each country for the World Wide Web with the principles of freedoms to be upheld by the government and corporations.
By Whitney Hudson