The Contract for the Web

Ian Sample, the Guardian

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has launched a global action plan to save the web from political manipulation, fake news, privacy violations and other malign forces that threaten to plunge the world into a “digital dystopia”.

The Contract for the Web requires endorsing governments, companies and individuals to make concrete commitments to protect the web from abuse and ensure it benefits humanity.

The “contract” — a term I use very loosely, as the only punishment for a signatory’s failure to uphold its terms is to be removed from the list of organizations which support it — is endorsed by usual suspects like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and DuckDuckGo. It also counts as supporters Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Two of the nine principles of the Contract for the Web are about respecting users’ privacy in meaningful ways. You do the math.

Matthew Butterick:

So it’s flabbergasting to now see Berners-Lee in the New York Times sidestepping any accountability, and instead promoting himself as the restorer of the web’s virtue. Berners-Lee is pushing what he calls the Contract for the Web, which he describes, with no irony, as a “global plan of action … to make sure our online world is safe, empowering and genuinely for everyone.” He assures us that “the tech giants Google, Facebook, [and] Microsoft” are all “committing to action.” What a relief! Berners-Lee still seems to think Big Tech can do no wrong, even at a time when public and political opinion are going the opposite direction.

I’m not sure I share Butterick’s cynical view of this effort, but I do not see it making a lick of difference in the behaviour or business models of behavioural advertising companies with interactive front-ends.

Also not a good sign: in a random spot-check of a dozen of the companies I didn’t recognize, the website for Trisent was redirecting to some adware garbage, while CKA’s site is entirely in Comic Sans, was last updated in 2010, and displays the referrer in a JavaScript alert.