Father of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee has revealed more about his new internet privacy startup Inrupt, describing it as offering a ‘do-over’ for the internet.
Berners-Lee, best known for the creation of the world wide web, launched Inrupt in November, and recently made an appearance at a conference to talk about the aims of the startup, which allows users to store and control their own personal data.
Acting as a corrective to the data-centric, ad-based platforms currently dominating the web, Inrupt hopes to promote a more open and collaborative way of using the internet, as Berners-Lee had intended when he first built the world wide web in 1989. The startup says users will be able to store their data in ‘pods’, giving them more awareness and control over who they give permission to access their information.
Speaking at the Reuters Next conference, Berners-Lee explained the startup grew out of the belief that ‘people are fed up with the lack of controls’. The move to increase data awareness follows high profile privacy rights cases such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw Facebook users’ data used to attempt to influence elections in the UK and US. Berners-Lee added that the broad number of potential uses for Inrupt meant it had the potential to act ‘like a do-over for the web’.
In the few months since its official launch, Inrupt has found willing volunteers in a number of high profile institutions, including the BBC, NHS, NatWest and the government of Flanders in Belgium. The startup has confirmed a number of financial backers, with The New York Times reporting the company has so far secured $20 million in investments.
One pilot scheme currently running with the NHS has seen patients given the ability to create ‘pods’ containing personal information relevant to their healthcare needs, such as what specific daily tasks they need help with, and what helps them to relax. Inrupt CEO John Bruce explained to Reuters Next that the idea behind the pilot was to create ‘a holistic presentation of [their] medical history,’ while allowing patients to maintain control over their own medical record.
The emergence of Inrupt comes at a time when Big Tech companies, described by Berners-Lee as ‘silos’, are facing more scrutiny than ever for their control over how we use and experience the internet. Both Facebook and Google have recently been hit with large anti-trust lawsuits, with regulators in Europe and the US threatening to introduce tighter regulations targeting the companies’ privacy policies.