Tim Berners-Lee for world Internet czar?
The man behind the Web made some incredibly sensible remarks to British politicians a couple of days ago. Might the world elect him to be the Web's first commissioner?
When it comes to things Web-related, sometimes you just want to read something sensible, for a change.
So it was with some relief that the recent words of Tim Berners-Lee swam through my left ear without entirely exiting from my right.
Speaking to a bunch of possibly sober British politicians, Sir Tim, as he's known over there, said it's time that we should really have a jolly good think about who is crawling all over our Web behavior.
"We use the Internet without a thought that a third party would know what we have just clicked on," he said. "Yet the URLs people use reveal a huge amount about their lives, loves, hates, and fears. This is extremely sensitive information."
You can hardly argue that it's being treated sensitively when your information might be sold off to third parties for their commercial or even psychological gain.
Referring to our personal data, he said: "The principle should be that it should not be collected in the first place."
He went on to talk a little technical, saying encrypted surfing might be an idea, except for the fact that it would make everything slower and more expensive.
Surely, he spoke the truth. Like teenies snorting a particularly zippy strain of coke, we have grabbed the Web and slipped our tongue down its throat without for one tiny second considering the longer-term consequences of our snogging.
In some sense, this is the same philosophical dilemma that Facebook is contorting itself around and that Google seems, at times, reluctant to entirely embrace.
But who will ever make a decision about it? Will we just bungle our way through it all until there is no privacy, and the folks who hold the information become, to some extent, at least, our voyeuristic puppeteers?
I am having a fanciful notion this afternoon that neither business nor government can be trusted with legislating the Web. Instead, because the Web is worldwide, it needs a worldwide Web czar honcho chappy--with a little of LeBron James' powerful talc, added for good measure, and without any of that United Nations/International Olympic Committee horse-trading nonsense.
We need someone who can be clever and honest enough to set rules that enjoy some harmony with a philosophy that the majority might consider human. I know that it might be a little difficult to get China, North Korea, and--I don't know, France--to agree. But surely, some way has to be found before it all gets very, very messy.
I'm nominating Sir Tim, just because he sounds so bloody sensible. I welcome other suggestions for solving this creepy, creepy little problem.