The inventor of the internet has accused Western governments of hypocrisy in online spying while lecturing repressive leaders across the world for doing exactly the same.
Tim Berners-Lee, a London-born computer scientist who invented the web in 1989, said the West was involved in "insidious" online spying that could change the way normal people use their computers.
The United States and Britain are facing domestic and international furore after a security contractor leaked documents that lifted the lid on previously secret American and British programs to spy on the internet.
"In the Middle East, people have been given access to the internet but they have been snooped on and then they have been jailed," Berners-Lee, 58, told The Times newspaper in an interview.
"It can be easy for people in the West to say 'oh, those nasty governments should not be allowed access to spy.' But it's clear that developed nations are seriously spying on the internet," he said.
Berners-Lee said the revelations about US and British spying could alter the way people use the internet, especially for younger generations who can use it in intimate ways.
"Teenagers who are unsure about their sexuality who need to contact others, or people being abused trying to find helplines... There are things that happen on the net that are very intimate, which people are going to be loath to do if they feel there is somebody looking over their shoulder."
He also questioned whether the governments could safeguard sensitive date once collected.
Documents leaked by former US security contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had access to vast amounts of internet data such as emails, chatrooms and video from large companies, including Facebook and Google, under a government program known as PRISM.