Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee slams “appalling and foolish” spy agencies

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with the invention of the world wide web, has described spy agencies’ cracking of encryption codes as “appalling and foolish”, and has called for a “full and frank public debate” on internet surveillance.

Berners-Lee said in an interview with the Guardian that GCHQ and America’s National Security Agency (NSA), had undermined efforts to fight cybercrime and cyberwarfare, and that the system of check and balances designed to keep the agencies in check had failed.

His remarks come ahead of a parliamentary committee meeting in which MPs will question the heads of the UK’s spying agencies, MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

He said the agencies’ breaking of security codes were a contradiction of the government’s attempts at fighting cybercrime, and branded it “a betrayal” of the technology industry.

He said: “Whistle-blowers, and responsible media outlets that work with them, play an important role in society.

“We need powerful agencies to combat criminal activity online, but any powerful agency needs checks and balances and, based on recent revelations, it seems the current system of checks and balances has failed.”

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