On Monday, I wrote about the Republicans’ assault on privacy in the US as they voted to allow internet service providers to sell users browsing data. I am in good company. On Tuesday, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the internet, launched into a diatribe against how the web has developed and zeroed in on where he thinks the internet has gone wrong. In an interview with the Guardian after it was announced that he had won the prestigious Turing Award (colloquially known as the Nobel Prize for computing), he lambasted the FCC decision to allow internet service providers unlimited licence to profit of users’ personal information without their permission, and offered a timely reminder of what the internet used to be like:

“When the internet was new, when people didn’t realize to what extent it would be important to people’s lives, I gave talks pointing out that, actually, when people use the web what they do is really, really intimate. They go to their doctor for a second opinion; they’ve gone to the web for the first opinion on whether it’s cancer. They communicate very intimately with family members that they love. There are things that people do on the web that reveal absolutely everything, more about them than they know themselves sometimes. Because so much of what we do in our lives that actually goes through those left-clicks, it can be ridiculously revealing. You have the right to go to a doctor in privacy where it’s just between you and the doctor. And similarly, you have to be able to go to the web….

Privacy, a core American value, is not a partisan thing. Democrats fight for it and Republicans fight for it too, maybe even more. So I am very shocked that the Republican party has managed to suggest that it should be trashed; if anyone follows up on this direction, there will be a massive pushback – and there must be a massive pushback!”

Berners-Lee has always been fierce advocate for the “open internet”, seeing his invention of the world wide web as a tool to level the playing field and bring people together. In today’s age of giant conglomerates hoovering up information and governments using ever more advanced tools to spy on their citizens, he has called for a new dynamic where individuals own and control their own data. As a model, it could revolutionise the one-sided relationship between users who generate data and companies that want to harvest it. We might then find out how much our data is actually worth – in 2013, New Yorker Federico Zannier launched a Kickstarter project to sell his own data for $2 a day, and earned $2,733.

The father of the internet also had some harsh words for politicians – like the UK’s home secretary Amber Rudd – who try to undermine encryption to spy on their citizens in the name of national security. Rudd had called on technology companies like WhatsApp to provide ways for the government to access encrypted communications after the Westminster terror attack last month. Though her intentions are obviously admirable, Berners-Lee – and others – have pointed out that these misguided attempts to enhance security actually make us all less safe. He told the BBC: “if you break that encryption then guess what – so could other people and guess what – they may end up getting better at it than you are”.

At their core, both the commercialisation of data and the encryption debate hinge on one core concept that Berners-Lee holds to be one of the tenets of the internet: people have a right to privacy. In a world where Facebook knows where you are, Google knows you might have swine flu, and Target might know you’re pregnant before you do, this conversation has never been more important. Sir Tim Berners-Lee believes that private conversations on the internet are a “human right”, and warns “You can’t mess with human rights like that without massive unexpected and very disastrous consequences”.

Companies and governments have been messing with that right for years now, and we’ve all been letting them. If the man who invented the internet is right, we’re due for a disaster pretty soon, or at the very least a shakeup on a revolutionary scale.