Building Capacities for Sustainable Digital Policies

Technology plays a key role for bringing a long-awaited and deep transformation in socioeconomic and political conditions in both developing countries and developed countries such as my own country of Brazil. Latin America has always been known for its creativity and experimentation, and that’s no different when it comes to technology.

We use it to fight corruption, to create crowdsourced legislation, and to express our most exciting ideas. Brazilians ❤ the Internet and all its means of interaction and communication. However, current changes are impairing public structures responsible for the balance between innovation and consumer interests.

As a lawyer, for the past four years I have been advocating to develop best practices for privacy and digital rights, including defending privacy and data protection as a consumer right. Working in and around technology, I know we cannot ignore that an important side of these technologies is their possible negative impact on one’s personal and social spheres.

The former governmental structures furthering the analysis of the impact of digital technologies on fundamental rights are being shadowed by agents with clashing interests and have proven less effective than they once were. In these circumstances, it is important to empower stakeholders representing consumer interests and strengthen the role and leadership of civil society and academic researchers .

Decentralized and autonomous structures are key to foster digital rights | “Haenyeo with Octopus” Photo by Brian Miller (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Mozilla has always been on the front lines of the open Internet movement advocating for openness, access, security, privacy, and collaborative innovation. Mozilla’s Tech Policy Fellowship is an initiative to promote continuing development of sustainable tech policies, fostering a healthy Internet, and placing people at the center of any technological development. As a Mozilla Tech Policy Fellow, I am part of a rich network of peers, formulating and promoting far-reaching tech policies around the globe.

My work as a fellow will build on my experience at Brazil’s Ministry of Justice Consumer Office where I developed policies on consumer protection online and built capacity and collaboration among government actors and developed a draft of a data protection bill. I will also draw on my work as a young scholar in the field of tech policy and Internet Governance at national and global levels, having worked with key think- (and do-) tanks and research centers in the country. I plan to act as a liaison between policy makers and academia, studying new techniques, regulatory practices and policy making with the latter, and helping the former apply such techniques to solving real problems.

For example, I hope to shed a light on how existing rules are being applied and help these agents apply them in the technological context by creating awareness within consumer protection and competition agents and relying, primarily, on their solid expertise and experience enforcing dialogue and action among actors within local and community context and dealing with asymmetric powers.

I will also analyze tech policy issues from a consumer protection perspective, such as the evolution of privacy claims, evaluating whether or not they exist, and determining how they are being flagged for policy makers. Frequently, cultural generalization and stereotypes are used to restrain policy developments, such as saying that Latin Americans perceive privacy differently since they are genuinely more open, less secretive and, therefore, do not need the same data protection and information security policies. That’s problematic. It ignores all the means new technological innovation have to assess traces of one’s identity and intimacy based on a cultural trait that does not exclude a fundamental right.

I will also look at the challenge of connecting the unconnected in the region, and other developing areas worldwide, and how that can come at the price of user’s choice, transparency, and non-discrimination safeguards.

These analyses are my starting point for encouraging meetings with academia, civil society, and government representatives to promote sustainable tech policies and guarantee that governments and corporations are transparent and accountable to citizens and not the other way around.