Policy

What the good children of tech want from policymakers next year

Privacy under the tree, competition measures in the stocking and a New Year’s resolution for net neutrality.

A "Nice" and "Naughty list featuring "Wikimedia Foundation, DuckDuckGo, Proton, Mozilla Foundation" in the nice column and "Meta, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, Google" on the Naughty side

Here are the wish lists of some of your least-problematic faves.

Photoi Illustration: TerriC/Pixabay; Protocol

Click banner image for more holiday coverage for 2021

We all know who in tech is getting coal from policymakers. The question is, what do the good children of tech want for the holidays? And by children, we mean companies and nonprofits that aren’t squashing rivals, trying to monetize your eyeball twitches or paying for million-dollar lobbying bills with whatever change comes out when they sneeze.

There’s a lot teed up for discussion in tech policy in 2022, from multiple major European legislative proposals to U.S. competition bills to the possible return of net neutrality. The biggest players will spend plenty of time making clear how those policies would affect them, but it’s good to remember that tech can just be fun — and that the folks who make it fun have their own policy hopes that don’t get much attention.

So here, in their own words, are the wish lists of some of your least-problematic faves. It’s not that the good children are perfect — no kids are, after all — and there’s plenty of room for debate with their wish lists. But they did all swear they were especially good this year.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Rebecca MacKinnon, VP for Global Advocacy, Wikimedia Foundation

Everyone’s heard of Wikipedia. The [Wikimedia] Foundation supports the community that actually builds and contributes the content to the projects and governs them. We provide the technical support, legal support [and] policy advocacy support, which is my job. So we’ve got our list to Santa Claus, and top of the list is: Retain Section 230. Wikipedia is a place that everyone can edit, but it’s not a free-for-all. The community has rules about what are credible sources, what is allowed and not allowed on a given page. Section 230 [allows them] to do that without being sued into oblivion by everybody who doesn’t like their Wikipedia page, which is a lot of people. I wouldn’t mind if mine would improve too!

We [also] want accountable surveillance. We want surveillance oversight. We want people to be able to contribute to Wikimedia projects without fear of being stalked or tracked or retribution in this country or anywhere. And to that end, we need the U.S. government to support strong encryption.

[Finally,] you can’t participate in open-knowledge projects or public-interest technology projects if you don’t have affordable broadband access, and then related to it, of course, net neutrality, so that we don’t have a situation where it’s cheaper and easier to access a few big commercial platforms and nothing else.

Gabriel Weinberg, CEO, DuckDuckGo

One [wish] is trying to get legislation and/or enforcement in place where people who would like to use privacy tools, especially our private search engine, can do so very easily. Right now, it’s very difficult because Google is the default, really everywhere. And in most of those places, it’s very hard to switch the default. I’d say we’re spending most of our priority in the U.S. right now [on] the Senate bill around self-preferencing. It’s kind of the closest thing that exists to stopping some of this Google default exploitation that we see.

The second is trying to really get a way that consumers can either opt out of behavioral advertising [which relies on extensive data collection], or make contextual advertising [which focuses on things you’re already looking for] the default. We would like to bring that to all browsers in the world. We are a founding member to a new standard called Global Privacy Control, which was about [browsers] sending the signal [to websites] to really effectuate an opt-out like that. The problem with that is it has no legal teeth in almost any place except California right now, and so what we would like to do is get wider adoption of that and find a way to tie that to more legal teeth in different places.

Jurgita Miseviciute, public policy and government affairs lead, Proton

We are hoping for negotiations between the European Parliament, council and the commission on the [competition-focused] Digital Markets Act to happen in January with this really landmark piece of technology adopted by summer 2022. One thing that we really wish for is to have the ban on pre-installation of apps to be included there as well. We think this is very important for a lot of app developers and startups in general.

When it comes to the second priority, we go back to the U.S. We are very much hopeful for a proper hearing for the Open App Markets Act. We are very practical, and we don’t expect full-fledged U.S. competition reform to happen in such a short timeframe. But we were very hopeful to see some progress.

And then we are very hopeful for meaningful action from the EU and U.S. Trade and Technology Council, which would also include progress on privacy agreements. We all know that the famous Privacy Shield was invalidated, and this created, obviously, a problem between the EU and U.S. [on] data flows. So we are very hopeful that this newly created body would serve as a meaningful and effective body to coordinate a lot of technology regulation questions.

Ashley Boyd, VP of Advocacy & Engagement, Mozilla Foundation

We want universal ad transparency from Facebook and all other major internet platforms. Campaigning today takes place through online ads in news feeds, stories and video streams, but online ads lack the scrutiny and guardrails that traditional ads in print, radio and TV have long faced. Universal ad transparency can bring lots of sunlight to this dark ecosystem. Imagine a comprehensive, easy-to-search ad library where anyone can browse the ads that run on a platform, see who paid for them and see who they were targeted at.

We [also] want insight into YouTube’s recommendation AI. It determines what millions of people watch each day, and in turn can influence whether they get a vaccine, or whether they accept the outcome of an election. YouTube rabbit holes are real — and sometimes dangerous. We can’t fix rogue systems like this until independent watchdogs can peer under the hood and see what’s happening.

Policymakers should introduce regulations that mandate transparency into recommendation algorithms — something that’s already proposed in the [EU’s] draft Digital Services Act. Policymakers also need to create safe harbor provisions that protect researchers working in the public interest so they aren’t threatened with lawsuits from the big platforms.

Podcasts

Should startups be scared?

Stock market turmoil is making VCs skittish. Could now be the best time to start a company?

yellow sticky notes on gray wall
Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

This week, we break down why Elon Musk is tweeting about the S&P 500's ESG rankings — and why he might be right to be mad. Then we discuss how tech companies are failing to prevent mass shootings, and why the new Texas social media law might make it more difficult for platforms to be proactive.

Then Protocol's Biz Carson, author of the weekly VC newsletter Pipeline, joins us to explain the state of venture capital amidst plunging stocks and declining revenues. Should founders start panicking? The answer might surprise you.

Keep Reading Show less
Caitlin McGarry

Caitlin McGarry is the news editor at Protocol.

Sponsored Content

Why the digital transformation of industries is creating a more sustainable future

Qualcomm’s chief sustainability officer Angela Baker on how companies can view going “digital” as a way not only toward growth, as laid out in a recent report, but also toward establishing and meeting environmental, social and governance goals.

Three letters dominate business practice at present: ESG, or environmental, social and governance goals. The number of mentions of the environment in financial earnings has doubled in the last five years, according to GlobalData: 600,000 companies mentioned the term in their annual or quarterly results last year.

But meeting those ESG goals can be a challenge — one that businesses can’t and shouldn’t take lightly. Ahead of an exclusive fireside chat at Davos, Angela Baker, chief sustainability officer at Qualcomm, sat down with Protocol to speak about how best to achieve those targets and how Qualcomm thinks about its own sustainability strategy, net zero commitment, other ESG targets and more.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.

Inside the Crypto Cannabis Club

As crypto crashes, an NFT weed club holds on to the high.

The Crypto Cannabis Club’s Discord has 23,000 subscribers, with 28 chapters globally.

Photo: Nat Rubio-Licht/Protocol

On a Saturday night in downtown Los Angeles, a group of high strangers gathered in a smoky, colorful venue less than a mile from Crypto.com Arena. The vibe was relaxed but excited, and the partygoers, many of whom were meeting each other for the very first time, greeted each other like old friends, calling each other by their Discord names. The mood was celebratory: The Crypto Cannabis Club, an NFT community for stoners, was gathering to celebrate the launch of its metaverse dispensary.

The warmth and belonging of the weed-filled party was a contrast to the metaverse store, which was underwhelming by comparison. But the dispensary launch and the NFTs required to buy into the group are just an excuse: As with most Web3 projects, it’s really about the community. Even though crypto is crashing, taking NFTs with it, the Crypto Cannabis Club is unfazed, CEO Ryan Hunter told Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less
Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

Fintech

Privacy and harassment could spoil Grindr’s Wall Street romance

As it pursues a long-held goal of going public, the gay dating app has to confront its demons.

Grindr may finally be a public company.

Illustration: woocat/iStock/Getty Images Plus; Protocol

Grindr's looking for more than just a hookup with Wall Street. Finding a stable relationship may be tough.

The location-based dating app favored by gay men was a pioneer, predating Tinder by three years. It’s bounced from owner to owner after founder Joel Simkhai sold it in 2018 for $245 million. A SPAC merger could be the answer, but businesses serving the LGBTQ+ community have had trouble courting investors. And Grindr has its own unique set of challenges.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering breaking news. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

Climate

The minerals we need to save the planet are getting way too expensive

Supply chain problems and rising demand have sent prices spiraling upward for the minerals and metals essential for the clean energy transition.

Critical mineral prices have exploded over the past year.

Photo: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The newest source of the alarm bells echoing throughout the renewables industry? Spiking critical mineral and metal prices.

According to a new report from the International Energy Agency, a maelstrom of rising demand and tattered supply chains have caused prices for the materials needed for clean energy technologies to soar in the last year. And this increase has only accelerated since 2022 began.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Latest Stories
Bulletins