Web’s creator and others concerned about the internet

Feb. 16, 2018
by Mark Ollig

British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee submitted his original proposal for the World Wide Web to his colleagues at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, in March 1989.

“Information Management: A Proposal” was the title of his suggested strategy for managing hypertext server files on individual computers, so they could be easily accessed by any computer using his client browser program, which was compatible with most computing platforms.

“I imagined the web as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries,” Berners-Lee recently wrote.

Many of us remember the time we downloaded our first web browser in the early 1990s; Mosaic, or maybe Netscape Navigator, and eagerly began exploring the resources and content of the internet through the easily navigable, hyperlinked World Wide Web overlay.

During the 1990s, the potential benefits of the web and internet were very promising.

The web became, as Berners-Lee stated, “A tool which serves all of humanity.”

Along with the good things about the web and internet, we are all too aware of the negatives.

We worry about data security in light of the growing cyber threats and theft of private data.

There are thousands of new smart Internet of Things (IoT) devices connecting to the internet on a daily basis.

IoT’s are also susceptible to being hacked into, with its information being stolen or manipulated.

The volume of classified, encrypted data intelligence, vulnerable to being compromised by cyber attackers, is of great concern.

It’s not only humans penetrating computing systems and stealing data; sophisticated learning machines are, too.

Computing machines are programming each other, making their previous software operate more efficiently; which seems to be a good thing when the benefits are for improving the quality of our lives.

However, many are worried future machine-learning systems will also develop enhanced cyber-attacking algorithm software programs.

There are foreign and domestic hostile cyber actors; including human and semi-autonomous computing machines. They are creating encryption-breaking software code and executing it over the internet and web for launching nefarious “cyber-attacks” into targeted, sensitive government and commercial websites.

These cyber-attacks target classified government computers, electrical power grids, telecommunications networks, financial and credit institutions, online social media, and websites containing personal information about you and me.

We are aware of foreign operatives misusing online social media for influencing political outcomes in not only our country – but in others, as well.

The US Senate Intelligence Committee recently hosted a public hearing on worldwide threats; including cyber threats.

They acknowledge it is challenging to police social media, as there is no direct oversight of social media’s content.

Protecting sensitive online data using increased encryption techniques was one of the options recommended during the hearing.

Sen. Ron Wyden from Oregon mentioned during the intelligence hearing how the US government is requesting IoT device makers to include a software “back door,” which I assume is for covertly accessing them over the internet.

Sen. Wyden’s IoT remarks received little discussion during the public hearing; for reasons of national security, further comments require a closed meeting.

Computing experts predict, within a few years, there will be 20 billion IoT devices connected to the internet.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) combined with quantum computing research and development in China were brought up, with comments offered on how the US would respond.

One politician asked if the US had a “Manhattan Project” in the works to deal with the China AI quantum computing project; an official replied his answer would require a private meeting.

In my humble opinion, once scientists successfully construct a fully-operational, 100 qubit quantum computer with an AI brain, the complex algorithmic programs it will create for good (or evil) will be endless, overwhelming – and, I might add, a bit scary.

US Cyber Command was established in 2009, in part for “strengthening our nation’s ability to withstand and respond to cyber-attack.”

And so, dear readers, the discussion about cyber-security continues.

Meanwhile, Tim Berners-Lee recently expressed his concern about personal data insecurities on the web.

He feels we’ve lost control of our data, as more websites require us to provide personal information about ourselves to use the website’s content.

Most people will exchange some personal data about themselves for free services.

Berners-Lee suggests once we divulge to a website our data, we lose its right to privacy, and the ability to control who sees it.

He also cited “fake news,” and how misinformation can quickly spread over the web “like wildfire” via an army of preprogrammed software cyber bots.

Many people get their daily news and information from just a few mainstream websites, while others rely solely on commercial social media websites.

Berners-Lee said numerous political antagonists are executing a strategy of targeting prominent commercial social media websites with fake news and misinformation to sway public opinion and obtain votes to support their agendas.

One person I worked with many years ago, imparted this sage advice, “Mark, you’ve got to consider the source.”

“It has taken all of us to build the web we have, and now, it is up to all of us to build the web we want – for everyone,” advises Tim Berners-Lee.

Visit my web blog at http://bitscolumn.blogspot.com.

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