By Mike Kubzansky, CEO, Omidyar Network

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2020 has challenged and consumed us — as individuals and as a society. From the pandemic to politics, to the severe economic downturn and the desperate cries for Black lives to matter; too many across the country and around the globe are struggling — financially, physically, and mentally.

We are at times scared, or angry, or resigned, and a pervasive sense of helplessness underpins so much of current daily life, across whole swathes of society. Yet so many people have remained remarkably resilient and resolute. We have donned our masks and taken to the streets to peacefully protest, help at food banks, or simply serve as poll watchers. We have prayed, meditated, eaten (and then tried to exercise) our way through this year of chaos and uncertainty. …


By Jesús Salas, Associate, Responsible Technology

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American consumers are increasingly concerned about privacy and data security when purchasing new products and services, which may be of a competitive advantage to companies that take action towards these consumer values, a new Consumer Reports (CR) study finds.

The new study, “Privacy Front and Center: Meeting the Commercial Opportunity to Support Consumers Rights,” from CR’s Digital Lab with support from Omidyar Network, looks at the commercial benefits for companies that differentiate their products based on privacy and data security.

The report lays out a succinct timeline for the evolution of consumer attitudes toward privacy that culminates with a clear call to action for innovators. Through their comprehensive research methodologies, CR has been able to draw out the nuance around when, why, and how much privacy and security features matter for individuals looking to use and buy security cameras, connected cars, smart speakers, and other products. The report also contextualizes the role that both rule-making through regulation and the supply of better products can have to meet the growing market demand. …


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Today marks a new chapter in the long history of US enforcement of antitrust law. The filing of this lawsuit is recognition that digital platforms, namely Google, have used illegal and improper means to maintain their dominance.

Over many years, Google has exercised tremendous control over the marketplace of online search. This complaint makes a strong case for how Google manipulated the online search market by paying billions to secure default positions on browsers and mobile handsets to exclude rivals, by denying interoperability to challengers, and by preferencing its own products and services in search results.

The DOJ did not sue Google because it has grown large or successful. Rather, the investigation yielded sufficient evidence to show Google has violated US antitrust law — a set of rules that apply to everyone, and are designed to make sure all of us benefit from free markets and fair competition. …


By Sarah Drinkwater, Director, Responsible Technology

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Today our grantee, WaitWhat, launched the second season of Should This Exist?, which earlier this year was nominated by the prestigious Webby Awards for best tech podcast in the world.

We put Should this Exist? on the “must listen” list! It stretches your understanding about radically new technology and its implications on our lives — both the promising and perilous. The storytelling is riveting, the topics are supremely well chosen, and the show’s host — Internet serial entrepreneur and investor Caterina Fake — masterfully guides listeners on unforgettable journeys alongside the inventors of our times. In each episode, Caterina engages with a groundbreaking technology — from contact tracing, to a robot caregiving, to deepfake video production — to ask the important questions. …


By CV Madhukar, Managing Director, Responsible Technology

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Long lines form with South Africans waiting to receive COVID relief funds.

Digital platforms, such as digital identity and interoperable payment systems, form the scaffolding that holds up our entire digital economy, improving the delivery of basic services to millions.

While not visible, this digital architecture has the power to enhance many different aspects of our lives, wherever we live on the globe. Identification enables people to open new bank accounts and access public services like education and health. While interoperable payment systems have the ability to drive down transaction costs for consumers.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen just how essential digital infrastructure can be. South Korea and Singapore were able to use theirs to track and trace who had contracted the virus — and to whom they had been in close proximity with. India used its digital infrastructure to send more than $200 million in emergency aid directly to more than 340 million citizens in a matter of days. Estonia, meanwhile, used its digital infrastructure to create digital immunity passports, which allow those who have recently tested negative for the novel coronavirus to return to work in person.

The problem is that this kind of digital infrastructure is only present in a few countries around the world — which leaves the rest of us to depend on slower, less reliable systems. Even in countries as wealthy as the US, unemployment benefits, which could be paid in seconds via digital infrastructure, can take months to process due to antiquated technology and processes. And when it comes to countries with far fewer resources, especially in Africa, the lack of digital infrastructure can create even bigger impediments to access even basis services. For example, the lack of formal identification is one of the biggest barriers for financial inclusion. And even if governments and philanthropists have every intention of supporting vulnerable people, these will remain mere intentions without a mechanism through which they can get people the resources they need.

That’s why Omidyar Network is working to make sure countries have the technical resources to build the digital infrastructure that is powering so much of the developed world — and to do it in a way that is cost-saving, open-sourced, and empowering to local entrepreneurs who will no longer have to be dependent on big technology companies. …


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The House Judiciary subcommittee’s recommendations released today represent the most comprehensive response from Congress to date on anti-competitive conduct in the tech sector. After a lengthy probe into industry giants Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook, we are grateful to see bipartisan understanding of the problems posed by unchecked concentration in this sector, the recognition of how competition policy can improve, and the need for additional resources to enable the DOJ and FTC to enforce existing antitrust laws. We are even more encouraged to see proposals for legislative changes and increased oversight.

Until now, critical areas of the internet have remained unregulated and unchecked, requiring the sort of dedicated investigation that the report reflects. The potentially illegal market dominance of the largest technology platforms, as well as their social and political power, is seriously threatening our individual freedoms, workers’ rights, economies, and democracies. From widespread disinformation and discrimination against vulnerable groups, to questionable tactics to kill competition and pervasive surveillance practices; we have ample evidence that the status quo is creating adverse conditions for individuals and society at large. …


By Franklyn Odhiambo and Thea Anderson, Responsible Technology, Omidyar Network

Nigerian Identity Management Commission
Nigerian Identity Management Commission

Earlier this year, the Nigerian government launched a Steering Committee for the National Identity in June, and published the Data Protection Bill 2020 for public comment in August. As a social change venture with a presence across Africa, we as Omidyar Network actively use our voice and partnerships with civil society organizations to reinforce good technology design and policy practices that yield Good ID — equity, inclusion, privacy, security, and transparency.

To better understand the implications of these developments in Nigeria, we recently spoke with Adeboye (“Boye”) Adegoke, Paradigm Initiative’s senior program manager. Paradigm Initiative is an African social enterprise, focused on increasing transparency and accountability between governments, civil society organizations, grassroots organizers, and the general public, on issues related to digital rights and inclusion. Omidyar Network partnered with Paradigm Initiative in early 2020 to support their advocacy and education efforts with Nigeria’s policymakers and the Nigerian Identity Management Commission, aiming toward securing greater safeguards and transparency in the National Identification Numbers program. …


By Kacie Harold, Omidyar Network

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Earlier this year, we released the Ethical Explorer Pack — a toolkit designed to help tech workers spark dialogue about the future impacts of their designs, identify early warning signs, and brainstorm positive solutions. This week, we are sharing some additional, practical advice from leading experts on how to mitigate against several of the tech risk zones (or potential downsides) and ensure technology is safe, fair, and compassionate.

Chris Hughes is the co-founder and co-chair of the Economic Security Project, a group that is working to restructure the economy so that it works for everyone. Prior to this, he co-founded Facebook in 2004, and later worked as a publisher at New Republic for several years. Chris has worked exclusively on economic issues since 2016, focusing on anti-monopoly and antitrust issues, and calling for a guaranteed income and tax policy. …


By Kacie Harold, Omidyar Network

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Earlier this year, we released the Ethical Explorer Pack — a toolkit designed to help tech workers spark dialogue about the future impacts of their designs, identify early warning signs, and brainstorm positive solutions. This week, we are sharing some additional, practical advice from leading experts on how to mitigate against several of the tech risk zones (or potential downsides) and ensure technology is safe, fair, and compassionate.

Caroline Sinders is a designer and artist focusing on the intersections of artificial intelligence, abuse, and politics in digital conversational spaces. She has worked with the United Nations, Amnesty International, IBM Watson, the Wikimedia Foundation and recently published a piece with the support of Omidyar Network and Mozilla Foundation. Sinders has held fellowships with the Harvard Kennedy School, Google’s PAIR (People and Artificial Intelligence Research group), and the Mozilla Foundation. Her work has been featured in the Tate Exchange in Tate Modern, the Victoria and Albert Museum, MoMA PS1, LABoral, Wired, Slate, Quartz, the Channels Festival and others. …


By Kacie Harold, Omidyar Network

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Earlier this year, we released the Ethical Explorer Pack — a toolkit designed to help tech workers spark dialogue about the future impacts of their designs, identify early warning signs, and brainstorm positive solutions. This week, we are sharing some additional, practical advice from leading experts on how to mitigate against several of the tech risk zones (or potential downsides) and ensure technology is safe, fair, and compassionate.

Matt Mitchell is a hacker and Tech Fellow at The Ford Foundation, working with the BUILD and Technology and Society teams to develop digital security strategy, technical assistance offerings, and safety and security measures for the foundation’s grantee partners. Matt has also worked as the Director of Digital Safety & Privacy at Tactical Tech, and he founded CryptoHarlem, which teaches basic cryptography tools to the predominately African American community in upper Manhattan. …

About

Omidyar Network

Omidyar Network is a social change venture that reimagines critical systems, and the ideas that govern them, to build more inclusive and equitable societies.

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