Here's what Sir Tim Berners-Lee had to say about Amber Rudd's WhatsApp encryption plans after picking up the "Nobel Prize for computing" Turing Award

 
Lynsey Barber
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Sir Tim Berners-Lee Is Awarded Freedom Of The City Of London
Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web and is against weakening encryption (Source: Getty)

It will come as no surprise to hear the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is not very keen at all on weakening encryption.

But it's the first time the computing legend has weighed in on the subject since home secretary Amber Rudd suggested end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp was "completely unacceptable" in the wake of the terrorist attack on Parliament.

Berners-Lee warned that giving powers to government to bypass encryption on WhatsApp and other online messaging services is "inappropriate", a "disaster" and would make parts of modern life "impossible".

"It's not possible to build a system, which you can guarantee that only a definition of good guys can break. What you should do is you should build a system which will work in a world where there's a government in power that you do not trust at all. Giving that sort of power to the government is inappropriate," he said speaking to Wired after collecting what's dubbed the Nobel Prize for computing.

Read more: Three problems with the internet keeping Tim Berners-Lee up at night

"If encryption were not a thing then huge amounts of modern life would be impossible," he told the magazine, adding that a hole in encryption, or a so-called backdoor, would end in disaster.

It comes as the Home Office revealed Rudd, who caused concern over her calls to weaken encryption, clarified that she had meant hashes rather than hashtags when talking about encryption and which she had been ridiculed over.

Rudd will speak with tech companies about encryption, but they are against weakening it as it also weakens security, giving access to the "bad guys" as well as the "good guys".

A proponent of online privacy, Berners-Lee also told the BBC: "Now I know that if you're trying to catch terrorists it's really tempting to demand to be able to break all that encryption but if you break that encryption then guess what - so could other people and guess what - they may end up getting better at it than you are."

Read more: Web inventor warns of Tories' "snooper's charter"

Berners-Lee was given the prestigious Turing Award, a million-dollar prize in computing named after the WWII code-breaker Alan Turing.

“The first-ever World Wide Web site went online in 1991. Although this doesn’t seem that long ago, it is hard to imagine the world before Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s invention," said Vicki Hanson, president of ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, which gives out the prize.

"In many ways, the colossal impact of the World Wide Web is obvious. Many people, however, may not fully appreciate the underlying technical contributions that make the Web possible. Sir Tim Berners-Lee not only developed the key components, such as URIs and web browsers that allow us to use the Web, but offered a coherent vision of how each of these elements would work together as part of an integrated whole."

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