The creator of the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has said that he is against the mining of personal information by ISPs, including any data that relates to the websites he has visited.
“It’s mine – you can’t have it. If you want to use it for something, then you have to negotiate with me. I have to agree, I have to understand what I'm getting in return," he said.
Sir Berners-Lee said that he would consider changing ISPs if his introduced any system that tracked his web activity without his full consent.
His comments come as debate over the privacy implications of net tracking services intensifies. Three major UK ISPs – Virgin Media, TalkTalk and BT – recently inked deals with controversial targeted-ads company Phorm to use its service.
While Virgin and TalkTalk are still deciding whether to make the service opt-in or opt-out, BT, which has re-branded the service ‘Webwise’, already requires users to opt-out.
Facebook, meanwhile, was forced to change its controversial Beacon targeted-ads service from an opt-out to an opt-in service following massive protests on the social networking site.
In an interview with the BBC, Sir Berners-Lee said that the problem with net tracking services is how far the distribution of collected data goes:
"I want to know if I look up a whole lot of books about some form of cancer that that's not going to get to my insurance company and I'm going to find my insurance premium is going to go up by 5 per cent because they've figured I'm looking at those books," he said.
Public utility service
Ultimately though, Sir Berners-Lee believes that ISPs should be considered as the delivery of a public utility service, such as water or gas, and should do so without interference or prejudice:
“I 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."