Tim Berners-Lee has this week launched the ‘Contract for the Web’: a document outlining 9 core principles ‘to make our online world safe and empowering for everyone’.
Prevailing feelings about technology have changed drastically over the last few years. Tech companies are no longer seen as infallible forces of good, and, as we saw in DigitalAgenda’s recent Power & Responsibility Summit, people are dissatisfied with their perceived powerlessness in the face of ‘big tech’. There have been concerns about how mega corporations use our data to provide themselves with insights that go far beyond our understanding. Data is being used to predict our behaviour and even to manipulate democracy.
In the face of this ‘tech-lash’, documents like the ‘Contract for the Web are essential. Tim Berners-Lee commented in the Guardian: ‘If we don’t act now – and act together – to prevent the web from being misused by those who want to exploit, divide and undermine, we are at risk of squandering that potential. But this will not happen unless we all commit to the challenge.’
Three of the report’s principles are aimed at government, three at businesses, and three at the individual, highlighting the fact that all levels of society have a part to play in the movement towards responsible technology.
Key contract themes include ‘access and openness’: the web should be affordable, inclusive, and diverse. The contract also advises a change in how data is used online, arguing that people should have the ability to see and control the data that tech companies hold about them. More encouragingly, the contract also asserts the importance of ‘positive tech’, advocating the development of technology that benefits humanity.
The contract has been backed by over 150 organisations, including governments, tech giants and non-profits. Backing the contract implies a commitment to its principles, and if companies fail to respect their users privacy and personal data, they risk their removal from the list of endorsers. Key backers include Facebook, Microsoft, Reddit and Google.
As the DigitalAgenda Green Paper outlined earlier this year, a global movement is necessary if we are to make the internet a force for good. A consumer campaign along the lines of the one currently in motion to protect the environment is necessary if we are to prevent the world from sliding into ‘digital dystopia’.