Policy Experts, Tech Entrepreneurs Debate Internet Privacy and Freedom at Take Back Your Internet 2018

Mar 12, 2018 | News, Policy

Friday night Data Foundry held its annual Take Back Your Internet party and panel along with sister companies Golden Frog and Giganews at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in downtown Austin. Data Foundry and our sister companies are committed to online privacy and an open Internet. We hold this event every year at the start of SXSW to band together with fellow tech entrepreneurs and public policy experts to debate the current state of the Internet and what can be done to make it more open and equal. This year FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn paid a surprise visit and made an introduction before the panel discussion began. In addition to participating in the discussion, attendees enjoyed drinks, hors d’oeuvres and BBQ tacos in true Austin fashion. Our 2018 panelists included:

  • Philip Molter, Co-CTO, Golden Frog
  • Chance Weldon, Attorney, Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF)
  • Rachel Wolbers, Policy Director, Engine
  • Joseph Lorenzo Hall, Chief Technologist, Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)
  • Moderator – Ellen Troxclair, Austin City Council

Important questions presented to the panel included, “What’s next after net neutrality?” and “Is your data your personal property?” Another topic was the decline of Internet freedom around the world. This year’s Freedom on the Net report revealed the alarming fact that Internet freedoms continue to decline worldwide for the 7th year in a row.

Possible solutions, at least to protecting data and Internet freedom in the U.S, revolved around VPNs, and data protection laws. Hall and Molter discussed how Golden Frog and the CDT are working together to develop best practices for VPN companies and how the blocking of VPNs is a good indicator of a lack of Internet freedom in a particular country.

Regarding data as property, Molter said, “The only people who think your personal data is not your property are those who want to sell it.” While Hall replied with, “Data is not a tangible thing you can give away, but that doesn’t mean data doesn’t need legal protection.” Wolbers chimed in with how in the U.S., “data protections have been tacked onto laws, creating silos.”

“It’s time for laws that obligate organizations that collect and retain data to protect it, like in the EU,” said Hall. He was arguing for is something similar to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) that will go into effect this May. The intention of the regulation is to unify data protection laws for all EU citizens. It will cover things like explicit consent, erasure (the right to be forgotten) and the protection of data at rest.

The Communications Decency Act (CDA) was also discussed. Wolbers stated, “Congress doesn’t seem to realize the tech industry isn’t just made up of two big companies [Google and Facebook] and whatever works or doesn’t work for those companies won’t be the same for the whole industry.” Many policy makers are concerned with putting Google and Facebook in their place with changes to CDA Section 230, by more strictly regulating content on these platforms. What they don’t think about is how this will affect small businesses who don’t have the resources to track everything that gets posted on their platform and immediately remove it.

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