THE founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, has backed ex-National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, saying the world needs whistleblowers and that they should be protected.
Berners-Lee said Snowden and others like him play an essential role in exposing abuses of power, and should not be punished.
The computer scientist also claimed that checks and balances in the US and around the world had failed, and that even with reforms, the system was unlikely to get better.
Following Channel Four’s alternative Christmas message by Snowden, the internet founder stressed that some leaks ‘really help and not hurt humanity.’
He said: ‘When checks and balances break down, all society can rely on are the whistleblowers. We must assume that those systems in the future will break down too.’
He added: ‘And because they have been performing this important function of saving society when it is in its most desperate state, therefore we need, I think, to have a form of international recognition for whistleblowers.
‘I don’t think an automatic Nobel prize is necessarily part of that, but some way of generating an amnesty.’
In his Christmas video message recorded in Moscow, Snowden, who revealed details of electronic surveillance by US and UK spy services, warned of the dangers posed by a loss of privacy.
He said: ‘Hi and Merry Christmas. I’m honoured to have a chance to speak with you and your family this year.
‘Recently we learned that our governments, working in concert, have created a system of worldwide system of mass surveillance watching everything we do.
‘Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information.
‘The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us – are nothing compared to what we have available today.
‘We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.
‘A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all.
‘They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalysed thought.
‘And that’s a problem because privacy matters; privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.
‘The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it.
‘Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance, and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.
‘For everyone out there listening, thank you and Merry Christmas.’