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Who owns the web: BCS welcomes Contract for the Web Launched by Sir Tim Berners-Lee

LONDON (25 November 2019) — BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT has welcomed the launch of a Contract for the Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee: a global plan of action to make our online world safe and empowering for everyone. The Contract calls for governments and businesses to ‘safeguard the web from abuse and ensure it benefits humanity.’


Bill Mitchell, Director of Policy at BCS says: “This is a most welcome start to a dialogue for how we ensure the Web creates genuine societal benefit and avoids unintended harm. At the same time, we think some of the fine print in the contract needs to be carefully looked at through consultation with key stakeholders to ensure we achieve the right balance between democratic sovereignty, incentives for commercial innovation, and individual freedoms.”


He continues: “The web has fantastic potential, but it’s important to be aware of the dangers as well as the benefits it brings with it. The new Contract echoes much of what BCS has been working on over recent years including developing policy on areas of concern including online harms, facial recognition and political manipulation. Society has a responsibility to help people manage risks, reduce harms and understand how the Web works, so that they take full and empowered advantage of it in the future. Failure to do so will damage public trust and confidence.”


BCS, which is both an educational charity as well as the professional body for IT, has called for a national cyber-safety programme to be introduced in schools if young people are to be protected. Its own research shows that younger pupils want to know more about how to look out for potential dangers online.


BCS also has concerns over facial recognition and says there is an unprecedented danger of the misuse of biometric data, including identity theft, because of a combination of flawed technology and a lack of ethical and rigorous safeguards around how that data is captured, stored and processed.


The Institute has also backed a call for politicians of all persuasions to do the right thing when it comes to using data to influence voters - following a letter from the UK’s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham to all the main political parties, reminding them to use people’s data lawfully during the General Election campaign.


As the professional body for the digital industries, BCS has backed this appeal and has come up with its own top ten guidelines for a digitally ethical election.