We had a great meeting with Congressman LLoyd Doggett yesterday, when he visited our offices to chat about the latest Internet and tech policy. We touched on a lot of topics – including hot button issues net neutrality, the escalating censorship situation in China and FISA 702. Our meeting included many members of the Golden Frog and Data Foundry (our sister company) teams, including our Co-Founder Ron Yokubaitis. Here’s a recap of what we talked about!
Net Neutrality & Open Access
Of course, net neutrality has been all over the news since the FCC officially repealed the existing guidelines on December 12. Congressman Doggett has been a longtime supporter of net neutrality principles, and more so of the right to a free and open Internet for all. He’s advocated for the benefits net neutrality affords small businesses and innovation, and for the consumer protections and equal access to content and Internet speed for consumers they provide. Doggett is sponsoring a congressional resolution to override the FCC’s recent decision, and our talk included the “what’s next” for net neutrality including a likely legal solution to the ruling. At Golden Frog we have always advocated for a better solution than net neutrality under Title ll – open access – for quite some time. Now that net neutrality is officially dead we don’t believe we should continue to fight for a flawed solution, but instead feel it’s time to move forward towards this ideal solution of open access – a viewpoint which we shared with Congressman Doggett.
Our sister company Data Foundry also asked the Congressman to push for a study that would provide proof of whether or not major broadband providers have met their former obligations to build out broadband infrastructure, after receiving benefits under Title II. Many believe major providers who took subsidies never delivered on their promises, and we talked about the importance of accountability. We also discussed the idea of monitoring broadband provider practices on the ground in an effort to moderate behavior in the absence of regulation.
Censorship In China
During the visit we discussed the situation in China, where Internet censorship and surveillance of citizens continue to increase. We’ve been battling censorship events including VPN blocks for quite some time now, and are increasingly concerned about new censorship measures China is enacting. Among these are a promised ban on VPNs to take effect in February 2018, and threats of implementation of a “social credit score” that has scary implications not only in terms of censorship but for citizen privacy. We shared with the Congressman more details on how our concern lead us to get involved and work with Greatfire.org to write a letter to Apple when the company seemed to uphold Chinese censorship by pulling VPN apps from their Chinese app store.
Additionally, we talked about the “economic firewall” China is creating by enacting strict regulations which make it very difficult for foreign businesses to operate within the country. This includes their strict censorship and stringent regulations for companies, including provisions requiring local data storage, domain name registration and other items essential for business operation. Just this May Golden Frog president Sunday Yokubaitis traveled to Washington DC to meet with the USTR (United States Trade Representative) and discuss these issues and concerns over barriers to business in China.
The FISA 702 amendments have also been in the news a lot lately. FISA stands for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the 702 amendments allow for law enforcement to collect data on foreign targets. The main issue with these amendments is they also allow for the monitoring and collection of information on domestic (US) non-targets if they are in communication with a foreign target. A great deal of information is thus collected and retained on people who are not the subject of criminal investigations, and this data can then be used and abused by law enforcement at later times with the warrant process circumvented. In brief, these amendments allow for governmental surveillance. Congressman Doggett certainly seemed to share our concern over 702, which is a pressing issue as it was set to sunset at the end of 2017 – a deadline which has been pushed back until this month. Likely the amendments will be extended, meaning the alarming surveillance practices and privacy violations will go on.
A Great Visit
The meeting finished with our Co-Founder Ron Yokubaitis renewing Golden Frog’s commitment to “Hacking for Liberty,” promising to continue our fight for a private, free and open Internet experience for everyone around the world despite the barriers in place. We shared with the Congressman our ongoing commitment to the principles on which our company was founded, and promised to continue to provide solutions by getting creative with technology (VyprVPN’s Chameleon protocol is one example of this). We also touched on the concept of information as property, again advocating for privacy as a basic right that everyone has (not to mention one of the many reasons our company is incorporated in Switzerland).