Sir Tim Berners-Lee doesn’t issue too many proclamations, but those he does are usually quite sensible. The latest, occasioned by the 28th anniversary of Sir Tim’s paper proposing the World Wide Web, warns of the three primary threats to the ecosystem that the web has evolved into.
There’s the lack of control over how our personal data is used, the inability to put the brakes on fake and misleading news and the subtle, sophisticated and mysterious world of political advertising. All troubling, to be sure.
His own descriptions of them are worth reading, so head over there, but it’s worth noting that the three share a common theme: large organizations trading on the complexity and network effects of the social web.
A big company can dedicate millions to figuring out how best to target individuals by collating information from across a dozen platforms; it can tweak ads and deliver content specifically tailored to that person’s characteristics, from gender to political alignment. Users have almost no way of telling whether this is happening, or, even if they did, how to stop it.
Sir Tim says that the Web Foundation is working hard at addressing these issues, and you can help by donating or otherwise contributing to projects aimed at making the web a little less lopsided.