'Excessive' surveillance knocks UK down table for 'free and open web'

Even Chile, Uruguay and South Africa beat us in the WWWF index

Media Editor

A lack of privacy from online state surveillance has caused the United Kingdom to fall beneath Chile, Uruguay and South Africa in its reputation for a "free and open" Web, according to a new global index.

The UK's "poor" record on online privacy damaged an otherwise strong record in using the Web, causing it to trail behind Scandinavian countries in the annual Web Index Report, with Sweden heading the table and Norway placed second.

The World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF), which produces the index, commended the UK for the richness of its web content, saying users were empowered with the availability of relevant material. But the UK's score was marked down heavily for excessive levels of state surveillance.

"Whilst the UK ranks third in the overall Web Index, it plummets to 24th on the Freedom and Openness sub-index, ranking below nations such as Chile, South Africa and Poland," Anne Jellema, the ceo of the WWWF told The Independent. "The Web Index throws the scale and scope of government spying into stark relief."

The findings follow new claims that the UK allowed America's National Security Agency to keep the mobile phone numbers and email addresses of ordinary Britons from 2007. The claims were based on documents leaked by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Ms Jellema said only five countries of the 81 in the index meet best practice standards for privacy of electronic communications, meaning both an order from an independent court and substantive justification must be provided before law enforcement or intelligence agencies can intercept electronic communications. Information on the granting of such orders must be made public, she said.

"The UK in fact performs even more poorly than the USA. In the UK a non-particularised warrant (a 'certificated warrant') is sufficient for relevant agencies to intercept evidence, whereas in the USA there is provision for a form of court oversight, albeit a very weak one."

Responding to the findings, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and founder of the WWWF, applauded growing efforts internationally to identify and challenge state surveillance.

"One of the most encouraging findings of this year's Web Index is how the Web and social media are increasingly spurring people to organise, take action and try to expose wrongdoing in every region of the world," he said.

"But some governments are threatened by this, and a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy. Bold steps are needed now to protect our fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and association online."

The Philippines, which was placed 38th, was the highest placed developing country in the index.

But an accompanying report from the WWWF highlighted large wealth-based disparities in Web access. "Wealthier groups in most countries are increasingly using the Web and social media to gain knowledge and amplify their voice in public debate," it said. "However, groups such as low-paid workers, smallholder farmers, and women in the developing world are much less likely to be able to access vital information online."

The report also identified a "global trend" in greater online censorship.

"Recent advances in technology have outpaced both engineering safeguards and legal frameworks to protect privacy, making it trivially easy for states to collect and retain vast quantities of data on entire populations," said Ms Jellema. "Our freedom to express ourselves on the internet has come to play a unique role in 21st century democracy. If we don't want to lose it, we urgently need a broad democratic debate on appropriate limits to state surveillance power in the digital era."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Charter Selection: Graphic Designer, Guildford

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Charter Selection: This renowned and well establish...

Guru Careers: Finance Account Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Finance Account Manager with...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas