When being questioned about Phorm, a new technology being used by U.K. ISPs to track consumers’ web usage, Tim Berners-Lee stated “I myself feel that it is very important that my ISP supplies internet to my house like the water company supplies water to my house. It supplies connectivity with no strings attached. My ISP doesn’t control which websites I go to, it doesn’t monitor which websites I go to.”
He argued that ISPs have to directly negotiate with users to access their data and make it clear that their information is being accessed prior to the information being stored. His position goes against much of what Beacon represents. Facebook is rumored to be in the process of expanding which communications it has access to through the addition of an instant messaging platform.
I suggested on Friday that Facebook add an email system not only for improving our communication but also so that they can track more of our interpersonal communications to determine the strength of each of our relationships. As some people pointed out in the comments, such a move would have serious privacy implications. I completely agree and Tim Berners-Lee is justified in his concern for our individual privacy.
The real question is how far users will let these systems go before they become concerned. I also wonder if users are in need of a privacy advocate that can represent them when they are unaware of new services on the web are launched that impact their personal privacy rights.