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Turing Award winner Sir Tim Berners-Lee wades into encryption row

World Wide Web creator issues firm stance against the weakening of encryption.

By Ellie Burns

Taking any steps to weaken encryption would be a ‘bad idea’ and pose serious security issues, according to World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee.

The web creator made the remarks speaking to the BBC following news that he is to be awarded the Turing Award, known by many as the Nobel Prize of computing.

His comments on encryption follow the recent aftermath of the attack on Westminster, with Home Secretary Amber Rudd arguing that tech giants, specifically encrypted channels like WhatsApp, give terrorists a safe place to hide online.

“Now I know that if you’re trying to catch terrorists it’s really tempting to demand to be able to break all that encryption but if you break that encryption then guess what – so could other people and guess what – they may end up getting better at it than you are,” Sir Tim told the BBC.

The inventor’s remarks echo those of the majority of the cyber security industry, with SonicWall CEO Bill Conner recently telling CBR that there is “no ‘backdoor’, just someone else’s front door.”

READ MORE: Why Amber Rudd’s WhatsApp encryption obsession will not stop terrorists

Sir Tim also did not hold back over the Snooper’s Charter, or Investigatory Powers Act, which he sees as an assault on the privacy of web users.

“The idea that all ISPs should be required to spy on citizens and hold the data for six months is appalling.”

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Looking to the other side of the Atlantic, Sir Tim was also vocal in his criticism of the US Congress and Senate, which has taken steps to scrap laws which prevent internet service providers from selling users’ data. For Sir Tim, privacy online should be akin to the privacy between a doctor and a patient.

Turing Award winner Sir Tim Berners-Lee wades into encryption row

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

“We’re talking about it being just a human right that my ability to communicate with people on the web, to go to websites I want without being spied on is really, really crucial.”

The web inventor also expanded upon remarks he made in an open letter regarding fake news, urging that everyone had a responsibility to address the issue – including tech giants.

“People who have created those various social networks need to sit back and look at the way they are being built,” he said.

One of those companies Sir Tim may have been referencing is Google, who just so happens to sponsor the Turing Prize – the award which Sir Tim is set to be handed in June. Now in it’s 50th year, the Turing Prize is given to pioneers and innovators in computing, with past winners including Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn and John McCarthy.


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