Tim Berners-Lee on Privacy, Data Sharing, and The Future of The Web

Tim Berners-Lee said today he believes many current global challenges can be solved if people can be convinced to share data – but on their own terms.

The creator of the world wide web was speaking at Fujitsu’s ActivateNow: Technology Summit, a virtual event focused on the part technology can play in shaping a better future, and covered his vision for the internet.

Asked about the current problems facing the web today, Berners-Lee said it had already produced a lot of benefits for the world, such as employees being able to work remotely during the pandemic. However, he noted that many are now concerned about cybercrime and the web being used to manipulate them, citing targeted advertising campaigns ahead of key US and UK votes in 2016.

Another facet of this is the privacy issue, where people’s data is being used for inappropriate purposes by corporations to target and manipulate them. Meanwhile, data stored by the social networks, such as photographs, is stuck inside those social networks, creating silos that prevent people from using that data how they might wish to.

Sir Tim has already been working on ways to address this, such as the Solid technology developed by his Inrupt organisation, which allows individuals to store their personal information in “pods” – which the individual whose data it is controls access to. He describes these as “places where you have control over who gets to see your data. For health data, test results will go into your Solid pod, bank transactions go to your Solid pod.”

Inevitably, this means that Solid pods will contain a huge amount of information about individuals, but they can decide how it gets used, Berners-Lee claimed, while the Solid protocol allows users to run apps that give insights about their life.

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