Looking at historical parallels to inform digital rights policy

My name is Justine, and I just started working here at IF as Policy Intern. In the coming weeks, I will be debuting our new policy research project, built around this general question: How can historical parallels inform the way we think about the current policy debate around digital rights? While I started out as a student of history and political science, I am currently a Masters’ candidate studying Media & Communications. Perhaps because of my interdisciplinary background, I was drawn to this project idea from my first interview at IF.

We are in an era of rapid change, reminiscent of the industrial revolution with its impact on labour, the economy, and our rights. History can teach us a lot about these issues and how they can be regulated. I want to find compelling ways to bring it into the fold of the current policy debate, and to offer up these historical parallels to the rest of the tech and privacy community. The goal of this project is not necessarily to create an authoritative body of new research, but rather, to decipher interesting historical patterns that can help inform successful policy-making.

Over the next few months, I’ll be exploring a variety of subjects relevant to the work IF does and the topics we care about - privacy, security, and consumer advocacy, to name a few. I will be publishing a post on a different theme every couple of weeks, all related to our central inquiry around historical parallels.

Topics we might cover include: how did privacy come to be enshrined as a human right after World War II? How have unrealistic consent models in other industries, such as banking, been reined in? What are the origins of building regulations and can they inform tech regulation? We think there are valuable lessons in these parallels, and it will be my job to draw them out.

We want this experimental research to be clear, insightful and original. But most of all, we want to start a conversation with people who think and care about these topics as we do. Please drop me a line at justine@projectsbyif.com with any comments or questions, and be on the look-out for the first post in the coming days.

Edit: You can find the policy research posts here.