Google, Facebook, Twitter back Contract for the Web
Tim Berners-Lee, the English scientist who invented the World Wide Web, has launched a contract for its protection, receiving endorsements from major tech firms.
The contract was formed in collaboration by 80 organisations from governments, companies and “civil society”. A quick scan of supporters reveals the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Reddit are backing the contract, which comes with nine key principles, three each for governments, companies and citizens.
For governments, the three are regarding ensuring equal access, constant connectivity and data protection. Principles for citizens focus on using the web for collaboration, the construction of communities, and ensuring the Web remains open.
The principles for companies, whose behaviour on the Web has been maligned of late (see Facebook CEO Zuckerberg’s grilling as he testified to the US Congress), make reference to the key role organisations have in guiding the future of the Web. The first, perhaps targeted particularly at internet service providers, reads: “Make the internet affordable and accessible to everyone”.
Second is: “Respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust”. This is undoubtedly an ethical topic that will continue to make headlines, with Google’s Senior Vice President, Devices & Services, Rick Osterloh, recently affirming that visitors to a home should be made aware of any active smart devices.
“Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst” is the final principle for companies, and perhaps the one most open to interpretation. Two of the major signatories in Twitter and Facebook, have taken differing positions on related topics such as paid political advertising, with Twitter last month announcing it was banning the activity.
In an accompanying post, Berners-Lee said: “The power of the web to transform people’s lives, enrich society and reduce inequality is one of the defining opportunities of our time. But if we don’t act now — and act together — to prevent the web being misused by those who want to exploit, divide and undermine, we are at risk of squandering that potential.
“At this pivotal moment for the web, we have a shared responsibility to fight for the web we want. Many of the most vocal campaigners on this issue have already recognised that this collaborative approach is critical.”
Legend: John McAfee
John McAfee is credited with starting the entire cybersecurity industry. In 1987, he set up McAfee Associates and released VirusScan. Previous antivirus programs had been released, but McAfee’s was the first with mass appeal and was soon a day zero (or at least day one) installation for Windows users as well as corporate clients.
But McAfee was also a hugely divisive character. He dismissed his own software, claimed he never used it, and rejoiced when Intel bought McAfee and took his name off “the worst software on the planet.” He was anti-tax, pro-drugs, anti-war and pro-free trade. He was also a tireless crusader for cyber awareness, and set up a political party called the Cyber Party in order to make a bid for the office of president of the US.
“I am now everlastingly grateful to Intel for freeing me from this terrible association with the worst software on the planet”
McAfee: born in the UK
McAfee was born in Gloucestershire, UK, but moved to Salem, Virginia, where his American father (his mother was English) shot himself when McAfee was 15. McAfee worked at NASA, Univac, Xerox, Computer Sciences Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton and Lockheed. It was while working at the latter he was given a copy of Brain, the first computer virus for PC, and began to engineer a defence.
Controversy dogged McAfee. He was implicated as a ‘person of interest’ in the search for a neighbour who had been shot. He married a prostitute. He claimed a cocaine baron was writing his biography. He was arrested for possession of an unlicensed weapon and for manufacturing drugs in Belize (later released without charge). There were various other arrests (mainly weapons related) but not much would stick until McAfee’s anti-tax stance caught up with him.
He fled the US as tax authorities turned up the heat on at least four years of non payment of tax and was arrested (again) in Spain in October 2020 at the behest of the US Department of Justice. Charges for fraudulently promoting cryptocurrencies were soon added and he was formally indicted in March 2021. In June 2021, the Spanish National Court authorised McAfee’s extradition to the US, and McAfee was found dead in his cell just hours later in what is widely believed to be a suicide.
Even in death, McAfee courted controversy, having announced that if he was ever found to have committed suicide, it would mean he had been murdered. A slew of conspiracy theories mushroomed in the hours after his death was announced. It’s just what he would have wanted.