Friday, April 25, 2008

Yale Information Society Project's 9.5 Theses for Technology Policy in the Next Administration

The theme of the 18th Annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference is "Technology Policy '08." To help shape public debate in this election year, the Information Society Project at Yale Law School recommends the following policy principles -
The 9.5 Theses for Technology Policy in the Next Administration

1. Privacy. Protect human dignity, autonomy, and privacy by providing individuals with control over the collection, use, and distribution of their personal information and medical information.

2. Access. Promote high-speed Internet access and increased connectivity for all, through both government and private initiatives, to reduce the digital divide.

3. Network Neutrality. Legislate against unreasonable discrimination by network providers against particular applications or content to maintain the Internet’s role in fostering innovation, economic growth, and democratic communication.

4. Transparency. Preserve accountability and oversight of government functions by strengthening freedom of information and improving electronic access to government deliberations and materials.

5. Innovation. Restore balance to intellectual property rules and explore alternative incentives to better promote innovation, freedom, access to knowledge, and human development.

6. Democracy. Empower individuals to fully participate in government and politics by making electronic voting consistent, reliable, and secure with voter-verifiable paper trails.

7. Education. Expand effective exceptions and limitations to intellectual property for education to ensure that teachers and students have access to innovative digital teaching techniques and educational resources.

8. Culture. Ensure that law and technology promote a free, vibrant and democratic culture, fair exchanges between different cultures, and individual rights to create and participate in culture.

9. Diversity. Limit media concentration and expand media ownership to ensure a diverse marketplace of ideas.

9.5 Openness. Support innovation and fair competition by stimulating openness in software, technological standards, Internet governance, and content licensing.


jon said...

Thanks for posting, Laura, and thanks to the Yale ISP folks for putting together the list -- it's an excellent basis for discussion, and should help get us all in the CFP frame of mind!

There's a lot of good stuff here. However, several of the theses seem overly-narrowly focused to me. In the spirit of sparking off conversation, those are naturally what I'll concentrate on :-)

For example:

* why does the privacy thesis leave out several of the important fair information principles: notice, access, security, redress?

* why is access narrowly phrased in terms of high-speed Internet access and connectivity, rather than more general access to technology -- which would including coinsiderations such as accessibility and training?

* why does diversity mention only on media concentration, and ignore the general dynamic in which marginalized groups (women, persons of color, those on the wrong side of the digital divide ... the list goes on) have excluded from discussions like these?

I'd be interested in hearing abot the discussions that led to these theses. Were the broader views proposed and specifically rejected? Or did they simply not get discussed?


Lea said...

Thanks for kicking off the discussion, Jon.

I took part in framing these, and it may be helpful to state explicitly that the 9.5 theses are rough ideas intended to spark further debate and discussion and fleshing-out and shuffling and addition.

In the coming weeks we'll be taking up each of the listed themes one at a time, and hope to generate some good discussion and eventually revisions, based on the principle of rough consensus and running code...

Michael Zimmer said...

I view these as guiding principles, from which specific tactics can be formulated. As such the tactic of ensuring "notice, access, security, redress" would support the principle of "providing individuals with control over the collection, use, and distribution of their personal information".

jon said...

[For those who don't know, Laura, Michael and I are all on the Program Committee.]

In aid of evolving the theses, I put a version up on the wiki; as discussion threads start up, we'll link back to them from there.

One of the things I was wondering behind my earlier question ("were the broader views proposed and specifically rejected?") is just how broad the input was in this email-based drafting -- and whether some points came up that didn't really get followed up on, a very easy thing to happen in email. On the other hand if there was discussion of this, it'll be good to get the dissenting views presented in the various threads.

jon said...

I view these as guiding principles, from which specific tactics can be formulated. As such the tactic of ensuring "notice, access, security, redress" would support the principle of "providing individuals with control over the collection, use, and distribution of their personal information".

I guess I see the fair information principles as, well, principles rather than tactics -- and ones that provide a skeleton of a lot of thinking and legislation on privacy for the last 30+ years. So I'd see "providing the user control" as a strategy for accomplishing this. Well, it'll be a good topic to discuss in the privacy thread :-)

Michael Zimmer said...

(I just drafted a lengthy reply that Blogger decided to eat for's a second attempt)

some replies to Jon:

-How drafted: this started as a brainstorm over how the ISP can spark discussion of major tech policy issues. It was discussed via a roundtable format, with various ISP fellows, students and visiting scholars present. It then moved to e-mail where the final version was circulated. Our goal, if I may speak for my colleagues, was to arrive at general principles that we all could agree to (via rough consensus). To be clear, these are meant to be the starting point of a discussion, not the final word.

-Privacy: I think we're on the same page here. I drafted this thesis, and just wanted to keep it general, allowing for broader discussion to determine how it should be accomplished. The Fair Information Principles are always near the top of my policy recommendations.

-Access: I think this was drafted to fit with a particular research focus, which is why it deals with Internet connectivity. Certainly the ISP is committed to broader "access to technology" issues, as that is a key component of the A2K movement that the ISP has played a large role in supporting.

-Diversity: I recall discussing marginalized groups as we were drafting these theses. As above, I think the "diversity" item was drafted in line with a particular research/advocacy focus. The omission of mention of other marginalized groups was unintentional.

jon said...

Thanks Michael, very interesting information. Rereading, I see that "access to knowledge" is specifically called out in the innovation prong.

The omission of mention of other marginalized groups was unintentional.

And, hopefully, correctable :-)

Michael Zimmer said...

And to be clear, I'm just recalling my personal memories of our discussions. My comments here aren't meant to be representative of my colleagues, nor official ISP statements.


Laura DeNardis said...

Thanks for all these comments, but IMHO, it is simply not the case that marginalized groups have been excluded from this list, as suggested. I would welcome ideas for making this more explicit, but marginalized groups are critically central to many of these policy discussions: e.g. exceptions and limitations to copyright in digital education; equal participation in democracy; privacy; increased connectivity; and individual rights to create and participate in culture. This is particularly the case in media concentration discussions, very much about opportunity for all voices to be heard, not just dominant voices.

I would be interested to see if others believe that general topics like privacy, intellectual property reform, increased connectivity, and cultural diversity, somehow exclude marginalized voices.

But most importantly, what are some suggestions for making these connections more explicit in the 9.5 Theses?

Thanks very much.

Brett Glass said...

I am a small, independent ISP who is very devoted to principles #1 (Privacy) and #2 (Access) -- in fact, I've devoted the past 15 years to providing the latter.

I was aghast when I read the session description at, because -- far from getting "beyond the slogans" -- the description of the session is full of loaded language and betrays an extreme viewpoint -- rather than a slogan-free one -- on Principle #3 (Network Neutrality).

Currently, the FCC and Congress are being lobbied by some well intentioned but misguided groups to regulate ISPs, preventing them from managing their networks, reining in applications that seek to exploit them, or throttling P2P (one of the greatest technological and economic threats to small ISPs and thus to rural access and market choice).

Our ISP would like to have an opportunity to speak on that panel and to bring real economic and technical data -- from our own ISP and from abroad -- to the discussion. See for my recent remarks to the FCC on this issue.

Laura Forlano said...

I understand the media concentration/media ownership issue to mean increasing the diversity of voices and, specifically, making provisions for media ownership by marginalized groups (women, people of color, people with disabilities etc.).

Ken Krechmer said...

One aspect of openness is open world (see Currently many governments are unwilling to recognize international standards that may impact national prerogatives. To get around this national standards are often created that copy international standards. This is a clumsy, costly and often error prone process. How should national governments support international standards without feeling a loss of sovereignty?

jon said...

Everybody's been heads down with planning, and so we haven't given this thread the attention it deserves; our apologies.

Laura: thanks, good input. We're all still thinking about it ...

Ken: an important point. is this something you see reflected in the current principles?

Brett: this is a thread about the theses, not about the contents of a particular panel. I responded to your other post in the program committee members thread.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but this list is useless. First: Why "9.5 Theses"? Is openness only half as important as the other one? No, the unusual number is a cheap shot for attention.

This is a list of banalities, pure buzzword bingo. Even the Chinese government could agree to it. They restrict the internet in a "reasonable way", the Great Firewall is only for the protection of human dignity...

Jeremy Duffy said...

If we were going to leave a message to the president concerning freedom, privacy, etc, I think one of the most important is to never, NEVER sign a law that usurps stronger state laws that protect us better than the proposed federal law. For example, I fully expect that some time soon, Credit Reporting Companies will convince Congress to pass a law mandating static rules for credit freezes that aren't helpful to us at all.

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