Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the Web, has publicly decried the UK government's plan to introduce an Internet spying bill that allows for warrantless, real-time surveillance of the nation's clicks, email and other online communications.
Berners-Lee said: "The idea that we should routinely record information about people is obviously very dangerous. It means that there will be information around which could be stolen, which can be acquired through corrupt officials or corrupt operators, and [could be] used, for example, to blackmail people in the government or people in the military. We open ourselves out, if we store this information, to it being abused."
He said that if the government believed it was essential to collect this kind of sensitive data about individuals, it would have to establish a "very strong independent body" which would be able to investigate every use of the surveillance powers to establish whether the target did pose a threat, and whether the intrusion had produced valuable evidence.
But he said that since the coalition had not spelled out an oversight regime, or how the data could be safely stored, "the most important thing to do is to stop the bill as it is at the moment".
The intervention of the highly respected internet pioneer creates a headache for Theresa May, the home secretary, who has said she plans to press on with introducing the new measures after the Queen's speech next month, despite concerns raised by senior Liberal Democrats. It will add to the woes of ministers mired in damaging battles over unpopular policy proposals on several fronts.