Tim Berners-Lee: You should own your personal data, not Google, Facebook, Amazon, and advertisers

“The data we create about ourselves should be owned by each of us, not by the large companies that harvest it, the Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, said today,” Alex Hern reports for The Guardian. “Berners-Lee told the IPExpo Europe in London’s Excel Centre that the potential of big data will be wasted as its current owners use it to serve ever more ‘queasy’ targeted advertising.”

“By gaining access to their own data, people could use it with information about themselves from other sources in order to create ‘rich data’ – a far more valuable commodity than mere ‘big data”’ he said,” Hern reports. “Berners-Lee argued that the burden of tracking should be moved from the typical web user to the individuals and organizations with access to our data.”

“[Berners-Lee said], ‘We turn tracking around: … make tracking something that we do to the people who use our data,'” Hern reports. “That way, he argued, we would not have to completely lock down sensitive information such as our health data, so that if we’re in a car accident, the right person can still access important information – but only by notifying us that they have done so.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple CEO Tim Cook on privacy:

At Apple, your trust means everything to us. That’s why we respect your privacy and protect it with strong encryption, plus strict policies that govern how all data is handled.

Security and privacy are fundamental to the design of all our hardware, software, and services, including iCloud and new services like Apple Pay. And we continue to make improvements. Two-step verification, which we encourage all our customers to use, in addition to protecting your Apple ID account information, now also protects all of the data you store and keep up to date with iCloud.

We believe in telling you up front exactly what’s going to happen to your personal information and asking for your permission before you share it with us. And if you change your mind later, we make it easy to stop sharing with us. Every Apple product is designed around those principles. When we do ask to use your data, it’s to provide you with a better user experience.

We’re publishing this website to explain how we handle your personal information, what we do and don’t collect, and why. We’re going to make sure you get updates here about privacy at Apple at least once a year and whenever there are significant changes to our policies.

A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.

Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.

One very small part of our business does serve advertisers, and that’s iAd. We built an advertising network because some app developers depend on that business model, and we want to support them as well as a free iTunes Radio service. iAd sticks to the same privacy policy that applies to every other Apple product. It doesn’t get data from Health and HomeKit, Maps, Siri, iMessage, your call history, or any iCloud service like Contacts or Mail, and you can always just opt out altogether.

Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.

Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers. We know that your trust doesn’t come easy. That’s why we have and always will work as hard as we can to earn and keep it.


Related articles:
Apple CEO Tim Cook ups privacy to new level, takes direct swipe at Google – September 18, 2014
Apple will no longer unlock most iPhones, iPads for government, police – even with search warrants – September 18, 2014
Would you trade privacy for national security? Most Americans wouldn’t – August 6, 2014
‘World’s most secure Android Phone’ hacked in under 5 minutes at DefCon Hacking Conference – August 12, 2014
Surveillance companies hate Apple’s impenetrable iPhones, iPads; Android infinitely more exploitable than iOS – August 12, 2014
Crucial security flaw found in Google Play: Thousands of secret keys found in Android apps – June 19, 2014
iOS 8′s extensions explained: Opening the platform while keeping it secure – June 9, 2014
New iOS 8 feature lets users cloak their iPhones from tracking by retailers, marketers, other companies – June 9, 2014
New malware takes Android phones hostage, demands ransom for unlock – June 5, 2014
F-Secure: Android accounted for 99% of new mobile malware in Q1 2014 – April 30, 2014


  1. Eric T Mole says Apple is catching up to Google in protecting users’ privacy. What a joke!

    True user privacy is incompatible with the Google business model. The same is true for facebook and any other site that makes money from what they know about users. If you make money from selling user data, the drive is going to be to make that data more and more specific and detailed, in order to increase profits.

    1. No, no, no, no! You missed what he was really saying! He bought in to the notion that Apple’s iCloud was hacked and private information was accessed… that slippage is how Apple is “catching up” to Google: By letting confidential information be used by others for monetary gain!


  2. I agree, the individual and their information and privacy should be protected. A model where all our “tracking” information is collected privately for our own access, and then used by us to communicate our needs and preferences with service providers removes the sleazy behind-the-scenes spying such as Google and Facebook do.

    Politics, politicians, and the courts over the past few decades have been favoring corporations over individuals. In my state, very wealthy individuals and corporations are investing a tremendous amount of money in buying the next election in order to accelerate this trend. Our freedom depends on the votes of well informed, independent voters who do not pull a red or blue lever like a trained dog.

  3. When I first explored aspect of the Internet I thought to myself that it was fantastic, anarchistic, new territory, a blank canvas filled with like minds. I knew this was temporary. I knew that soon enough the place would be flooded with junk, rules and regulations, advertising as far as the eye could see on the web pages, and the flapping of the masses regurgitating what they have been told to regurgitate.

    Data has to be observed, collected, analyzed and maybe just maybe synthesized to make relevant decisions. Ownership, what a concept, this is my data, this is not my data, just another fragmentary concept to nurture the illusion that humans are separate from everything else.

    “Instead, users should own their own data and be free to merge it with other sets as and when it could provide them useful insight, he said.”

    Data is quite often quantitative and gains a level of value when shared. Once shared, it’s hard to claim ownership. Merging data my provide insight or possibly not. What if the merge doesn’t provide a useful insight, can you take it back, under this idea of data ownership?

    “That data that [firms] have about you isn’t valuable to them as it is to you,” he said.

    Ah, a judgement here, a person’s individual data about them is more valuable then it is to others. Then a bit further on “people are much more happy to open up to their data being used. Finding drugs, we need to be able to look at a massive amount of data.”

    So a person’s data is more valuable to an individual using the exercise tracking information. Yet merging an individual’s data can help determine the effectiveness of a drug, usually the realm of a firm. The firm needs data to survive and market the drug. The data is valuable for its survival. An individual needs data for its survival as well. Yet the judgement is that the individual’s data is more important. Talk about having it both ways.

    “I’m not interested in your data; I’m interested in merging your data with other data. Your data will never be as exciting as what I can merge it with.”

    If you merge data it is no longer yours, under this very preposterous idea of data ownership. If people own their data and keep it, well then there goes the excitement of data merge.

    Fortunately data is not owned. Oh it can be hidden, kept, under patent but the data belongs to the Universe, indeed data is the Universe, and the Universe is data.

    Perhaps TIm Berners-Lee believes that his data, that he owns is separate from the Universe. I doubt he is alone with that belief.

    1. A very poignant post. I remember that even Web 2.0 used to be this way. YouTube used to have fascinating videos of everyday life, facebook was limited to college students, and even Twitter was considered an experimental playground for people willing to test new technology. Now, everything all feels the same. No originality or creativity anymore it seems.

      1. Why thank you for your feedback, it certainly adds to a wonderful day. I’m especially touched by your use of the word poignant as I remember having some good discussions with the net geeks about what would happen to the net before the mainstream masses would appear.

        The web pages were simple and clear, just a frame upon which to paint ideas, and it was original, creative and anarchistic as the rules were not set out.

        Yup, not it’s all one big redundant advertisement, for most places. Some of the wise ones made sure that there would be a nice spot to go and pretty well continue the wonderful real journey of the net. Shhhhh can’t tell you where it is though but it’s still there…

    2. It all has its roots in the credit reporting agencies of years gone by. They collected data on you surreptitiously and then charged everyone, including you to view it. You couldn’t change it because you didn’t own it. You had to ask them to change it. Slimeballs like Google have carried that concept to its natural conclusion.

      1. Hey Zeke, great post and again it recoils an interesting event of a friend of mine who worked all summer collecting data for a company. As he was a keen researcher himself he was shocked to see that the company put a spin on his data that was totally erroneous from the research and data he collected.

        Unfortunately for him, he could not have the data back and according to his contract there was a gag order preventing him from commenting on it.

        No need to say that he was pissed off royally but we all knew what a sleaze ball company it was before he worked there.

        Slime ball companies, are a dime a dozen unfortunately.

        Always enjoy reading your posts Zeke, thanks for making MDN a great place to visit.

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