In a classic example of an invention turning on its inventor, web pioneer Sir Tim Berners Lee, has admitted being conned out of his money by an Internet fraudster.
Speaking ahead of a speech he is due to give this week at Web Science 09 in Athens, Berners Lee made the revelation as he spoke of his dismay at the medium’s dispiriting lack of security.
“The worst thing that has happened to me was when I tried to buy a Christmas present from a company that looked like a bona fide company on the internet and then actually they were a completely fake company. I think I am yet to get the money back, but it wasn’t a lot,” said MIT professor Berners Lee with a helplessness that will strike a chord with the web’s growing number of less famous victims.
“There have been many positive things about the web, but there are also some nasty things out there too. You can find out how to cure diseases, but you can also find out how to make bombs,” he was reported as saying by news agencies.
“Sometimes we need new laws, but in other cases we need to realise that old laws can still be applied to the web. We need to tackle issues of enforcement instead, as the laws on fraud, for example, already exist but is hard to find and catch the people responsible,” he added.
According to Berners Lee, countries should be more prepared to invest in tacking web criminality, in the same way they had in stopping conventional crime.
That such an event could befall someone as sophisticated at Berners Lee is liable to be seen as a noteworthy irony.
But in the week the Web celebrated the 20th anniversary of its conception by his own hand, the fraud admission adds an extra layer of insult to his misfortune.
Others will applaud the man for his honesty. Berners Lee laid the foundations of the web, but he didn’t, in fairness, build it into the troubled medium it has become.