Tim Berners-Lee Urges Internet Users to Demand Their Data From Facebook

Father of the Web

The world renowned father of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, has made some striking statements, which instructed people not to entrust personal data to internet giants like Facebook or Google. The statements were quickly reiterated through a vast range of online communities all wondering what steps they should begin to recover their personal details.

It is widely recognised that through his creation and development of the internet, Mr Berners-Lee has given the world something of greater value than almost any other recent technology. Coming from such a recognised authority on the topic, these warnings may be sure to be heeded by many.

MIT Professor who Started the Internet

British Born Berners-Lee, who created the internet some thirty years ago, outlined his thoughts in a recent interview. In it he stated his beliefs that, despite the explosion of public domain data, individuals had little concept about the value of their data which is held by various web companies.

Base Data Held

Outlining the base data that is held, Berners-Lee explained how his computer analysed and recorded a vast quantity of personal information covering almost every aspect of his (very active) life. “My computer has a great understanding of my state of fitness, of the things I’m eating, of the places I’m at. My phone understands from being in my pocket how much exercise I’ve been getting and how many stairs I’ve been walking up and so on.”

Enormously Profitable to Some Individuals

He elaborated that exploiting this kind of data could prove enormously profitable to some individuals if they had access to this information that is held by web companies. The central issue of the conflict that he highlighted was the way in which the data was held. “One of the issues of social networking silos is that they have the data and I don’t.”

He went on to explain that there were many ways in which this data could be accessed by various programs run on a PC. It is through this conduit he felt that the data was vulnerable to exploitation. “There are no programmes that I can run on my computer which allow me to use all the data in each of the social networking systems that I use plus all the data in my calendar plus in my running map site, plus the data in my little fitness gadget and so on to really provide an excellent support to me.”

Protector of the Open Internet

In the past Berners-Lee has been a forthright protector of the “open internet”. He did say that some of the companies were beginning to recognise their responsibility and make the data more accessible to consumers. As an example he pointed to the fact that Google now allows users to have instant access to their data. As another illustration he did point out that Facebook will give customers their personal data on request. He did point out that this process was far from immediate and that it might take individuals up to three months to recover any requested data.

After the outputs from a variety of websites was brought into line, he felt that the level of sophistication in service recommendations would develop beyond to the level that they would provide an artificial intelligent level of understanding. Of computing he said, “It will know not only what’s happening out there but also what I’ve read already and also what my mood is, and who I’m meeting later on.”

Dangers of Social Networking

In the past Berners-Lee has stated the dangers of social networking silos like Facebook combined with apps like those employed by apple which are unable to be indexed by search engines will threaten the fundamental principles of openness that the original architects of the internet saw as integral to its design.

He also reiterated his fears about the impact of monopolization by major companies. He did go on to say that he thought this monopolization would not be able to continue indefinitely in the face of innovation created by smaller companies. “It’s interesting that people throughout the existence of the web have been concerned about monopolies. They were concerned [about] Netscape having complete control over the browser market until suddenly they started worrying that Microsoft had complete control of the browser market. So I think one of the lessons is that things can change very rapidly.”

Referring to issues that arose when the internet was in its infancy, Mr Berners-Lee cited the way in which trends, or fluctuations had the propensity to change the direction of web traffic, “Before the web, Gopher [an early alternative to the world wide web] was taking over the whole internet, it seemed, very quickly. I remember in an internet engineering meeting, somebody remarked that it was incredible how quickly it was taking over. One of the wiser people said: ‘Well it’s funny, it’s amazing how quickly people on the internet can pick something up, but it’s also amazing how quickly they can drop it.'”

Keeping Your Pictures

In terms of keeping hold of their data he stated that people should be aware of the fact that although some websites might seem like permanent fixtures there was every chance that they might disappear within a short space of time and that as a result people should ensure they had copies of personal artefacts like family photos.”Whatever social site, wherever you put your data, you should make sure that you can get it back and get it back in a standard form. And in fact if I were you I would do that regularly, just like you back up your computer … maybe our grandchildren depending on which website we use may or may not be able to see our photos.”

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