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Tim Berners-Lee Wants to Put Online Privacy on a Solid Foundation

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Tim Berners-Lee.

"Our data is stuck in systems that we as citizens and consumers can't control," said World Wide Web creator and ACM A.M. Turning Award recipient Tim Berners-Lee.

Credit: Picture Alliance/Getty Images

The man who invented the Web attended a conference named after it to suggest a course correction for his creation.

"People ask me constantly: Tim, if you could go back in time to 1989, what would you change about how the Web was built," said Tim Berners-Lee at the start of his talk Thursday afternoon at the Web Summit in Lisbon. By which, he continued, they mean: "How on Earth did we get here, and can we fix it?"

He pointed to the rise of siloed systems and massive data collection that combine to leave web users little autonomy. "The winner is whoever can collect the most data and the loser is everyone else," he said. "Our data is stuck in systems that we as citizens and consumers can't control."

Berners-Lee's proposed solution is a user-controlled, data-storage service called a Solid Pod from Inrupt—the Boston-based firm at which he works as chief technology officer. He compared a Solid Pod to a USB drive in the sky, except it allows far more granular sharing of data.

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