The British architect of the World Wide Web called for a “full and frank public debate” on Internet surveillance by U.K. and U.S. spy agencies and branded encryption cracking by governments “appalling and foolish.”

The remarks from Sir Tim Berners-Lee came as members of British parliament questioned heads of the U.K.’s spying agencies — GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 — together in public for the first time.

Berners-Lee said disclosures made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show the agencies have weakened online security by breaking the encryption protections Internet users depend on to protect the privacy of their data. He called this a betrayal of the technology industry.

“Whistle-blowers, and responsible media outlets that work with them, play an important role in society,” he said, according to the BBC. “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.”

In the meantime, a group of conservative U.K. lawmakers has demanded that editors with The Guardian newspaper take some sort of responsibility for alleged security compromises entailed in reporting the activity of spy agencies.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.


In their letter, 28 Tory MPs said publishing the leaks in such detail “runs the risk of compromising the vital work of the institutions, processes and people who protect the safety of this country”.

They asked the newspaper’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, to discuss with the intelligence services the implications for national security that publication would have, and be explicit about any information they have released that could threaten the safety of intelligence services personnel.

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