In the wake of the NSA-stalking-the-whole-world revelations that exploded last week, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, widely credited with helping found the internet, has spoken out against governments and companies which try to control the internet, labelling snooping as something "that threatens the very foundations of a democratic society".
Sir Tim was speaking at the World Entrepreneur of the Year competition in Monte Carlo, and he wasn't pulling his punches. He described attempts to "control the internet on the sly" through bills like SOPA and the Digital Communications Bill as a "major threat":
“If you can control [the internet], if you can start tweaking what people say, or intercepting communications, it's very, very powerful...it's the sort of power that if you give it to a corrupt government, you give them the ability to stay in power forever.”
He reckons that the problem of monopolies (like Google) single-handedly controlling the internet is negligible:
"If you remember [web browser] Netscape, people thought, oh the web is great but here's a completely controlling web company, what are we going to do? Then one morning they weren't worried about Netscape any more, it was Microsoft. Then suddenly, wait a moment the browser wasn't the issue, it was the search engine. Then, it's wait a moment, it's the social network. If you look at it broadly, yes a monopoly slows innovation, reduces competition. That's why it's important this is an open platform. But monopolies come and go all the time."
Sir Tim makes a valid point: that while the security apparatus alleged to have been erected by the US government (and shamelessly borrowed by British spooks) is fine so long as it's used reasonably and sensibly, it'd be all too easy for a hypothetical, future government to use it to keep the people under its thumb, and that's where the real danger lies.