The man many credit with inventing the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, last night called for a bill of rights to protect freedom of speech and users' rights on the internet following leaks about government surveillance of online activity.
On the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the internet, Berners-Lee said there was a need for a charter like England's historic Magna Carta to help guarantee fundamental principles online.
Web privacy and freedom have come under scrutiny since former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden last year leaked a raft of secret documents revealing a vast US government system for monitoring phone and Internet data.
Accusations that the NSA was mining personal data of users of Google, Facebook, Skype and other US companies prompted President Barack Obama to announce reforms in January to scale back the NSA program and ban eavesdropping on the leaders of close friends and allies of the United States.
Berners-Lee said it was time for a communal decision, as he warned that growing surveillance and censorship, in countries such as China, threatened the future of democracy.
"Are we going to continue on the road and just allow the governments to do more and more and more control - more and more surveillance?" he told BBC Radio.
"Or are we going to set up something like a Magna Carta for the world wide web and say, actually, now it's so important, so much part of our lives, that it becomes on a level with human rights?"
He called for greater oversight over spy agencies such Britain's GCHQ and the NSA, and over any organisations collecting data on private individuals.
He has previously spoken in support of Snowden, saying his actions were "in the public interest".
Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium, a global community with a mission to lead the web to its full potential, have launched a year of action for a campaign called the Web We Want, urging people to push for an internet "bill of rights" for every country.
"Our rights are being infringed more and more on every side, and the danger is that we get used to it. So I want to use the 25th anniversary for us all to do that, to take the web back into our own hands and define the web we want for the next 25 years," he told the Guardian.