Internet freedom is under threat from without and within, Heather Brooke told the Independent Bath Literature Festival. As well as targeting a raft of laws "making us all less free", Brooke is critical of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, whom she once saw as a saviour.
"After MPs' expenses there was a shift towards the right to know," she said. "Then it became all drowned out in one man's personality."
Asked about her personal experiences of him, she said: "He came on to me. He's a strange person. It's possibly too much to expect that someone who made his name as an internet hacker could understand personal boundaries." The campaigning author and journalist who, three years ago, broke the MPs' expenses scandal, said of her fears for the future of freedom on the internet: "We now have a raft of laws going through in almost every country making it more difficult to leak, making us all less free."
Surveys are beginning to show a "frightening" trend towards restrictions on freedom of information. "We have the possibility on the internet to create a bonded society all over the world," she said. "But if we want to remain free we have to educate ourselves, get active and block [moves to reassert] power, control and commercial gain."
The Pennsylvania-born Brooke, now a visiting professor of journalism at City University, London, details her fears about the internal and external threats to the internet in her new book The Revolution will be Digitised: Dispatches from the Information War. In the past, states could contain secrets within their national borders, but now information is "potentially global and instantaneous".
This, Brooke said, "is one of the biggest shifts in power since the Gutenberg press". The dark side, she warned, is constant surveillance as emergent companies and intelligence services got involved.
What's on: Today's highlights
11.15am Angela Carter: the Life. Friends and colleagues of the writer discuss her achievements on the 20th anniversary of her death.
1pm Independent Voices debate: "Are Universities Worth the Money?"
2.45pm The Invention of Murder. Historians Judith Flanders and Kate Colquhoun discuss the 19th-century growth of murder-as-entertainment.
4.30pm Jeremy Paxman on the Empire. Newsnight's Torquemada discusses our imperial past.
6.15pm Alice Oswald. A rare chance to hear the prize-winning poet read from and discuss Memorial.
8pm Alexander McCall Smith discusses his new book.
From the fringes: Bottomley's bestsellers
According to Nic Bottomley of the local bookshop, Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, the Festival's biggest sellers have been You and Me: the Neuroscience of Identity by Susan Greenfield ("60 copies went in six minutes,") Alain de Botton's Religion for Atheists, Simon Jenkins's A Short History of England and AN Wilson's Dante in Love. A surprise big seller was Dame Harriet Walter's self-published photo collection, Facing It: Reflections on Images of Older Women. Likely to outsell them all, however, is Alexander McCall Smith's book, to be unveiled on Saturday at 8pm, and embargoed for sale until then.Reuse content