Internet Expertise That Policymakers Can Use

We help leaders build public policy that unlocks the Internet's potential while managing its risks. Our toolbox spans policy and law, software engineering, and advanced computer science techniques.


Our Impact

Connecting Big Data and Civil Rights

The key decisions that shape people's lives—decisions about jobs, healthcare, housing, education, criminal justice and other key areas—are, more and more often, being made automatically by computers. As a result, a growing number of important conversations about civil rights, which focus on how these decisions are made, are also becoming discussions about how computer systems work. We recently released a report, Civil Rights, Big Data, and Our Algorithmic Future, that highlights key instances where big data and civil rights intersect.

Charting Technology's Impact on Social Justice

We explore technology's impact on core issues such as criminal justice, education, insurance, and employment through Equal Future, a weekly publication supported by the Ford Foundation. Since launching Equal Future last year, we've built a loyal readership of policy leaders. The newsletter has become a central resource for discussions of technology and civil rights.

Modernizing Online Voter Registration

Many states are launching online tools to help eligible voters register to vote. Online registration can benefit state governments and voters alike. Together with Rock the Vote, we authored Connected OVR: A Simple, Durable Approach to Online Voter Registration, a report that explains how states can build user-friendly and future-proof online registration systems.

Advancing Internet Freedom in China

Chinese Internet users cannot freely explore the Internet—they are constrained by their country's "Great Firewall." Many software developers and funders hope to change this situation, partly by making specialized censorship circumvention software. But it's hard to know what Chinese users need. Working with the Open Internet Tools Project, we gathered user input directly from 1,175 mainland Chinese users of censorship circumvention tools. Our report, Collateral Freedom, found that users are turning to the same connectivity tools as businesses—tools China has an economic reason not to censor.

Sparking Government Innovation

Our writing on Government Data and the Invisible Hand helped spark governments around the world to become more effective and accountable by putting more of their data online, opening it up to creative new uses. We've remained deeply involved in the global hunt for creative and valuable new ways of using existing government information. In later work—including a widely discussed paper on The New Ambiguity of 'Open Government'—we have focused on mapping out and clarifying the best practical ways to implement these ideas.

Turning Big Ideas into Concrete Plans

We built a practical roadmap to help Colombia's Ministry of Information Technology create a new nation-wide open data platform. We clarified technological tradeoffs and helped shape the procurement process, while at the same time addressing human questions like how to motivate broad participation inside government, ensure data consistency and quality, and engage with outside software developers.

Freeing Public Records

U.S. federal court filings are public records, but many can only be found through a cumbersome, expensive government database called PACER. We helped build RECAP, a crowdsourced tool that improves on PACER by helping users freely share these public records. Once a RECAP user pays to retrieve a particular filing from PACER, others can see the same pages for free (rather than having to repeat the purchase). RECAP users, including law school libraries, pro se litigants, and others with limited means, gain access to public information they might not otherwise afford, and the system now offers millions of documents.

Who We Are

Expert Teams, Built to Order

Our network includes top ICT innovators and builders from around the world. We bring together inventors, university professors, NGO leaders and civic technologists—people with a track record of pioneering new approaches in the field—to create nimble, tailored teams specific to each client engagement. We draw on people whose experience goes beyond consulting: people who personally design, execute and sustain high impact projects that leverage ICTs for social change.

Leaders with a Track Record

David Robinson served as the founding Associate Director of Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy, a joint venture combining computer science and public policy. In that role, he launched the Center’s operations and developed its interdisciplinary research programs. His published scholarship and popular writing analyze policy issues that raise both legal and technological questions, such as Internet-enabled government transparency and online copyright enforcement. He has written and reported for TIME and for the Wall Street Journal, with datelines on three continents. He holds bachelor’s degrees in philosophy from Princeton and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a JD from Yale Law School, where he focused on Internet-related law and policy. He now serves as a Visiting Fellow at the law school’s Information Society Project. CV |

Harlan Yu holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Princeton University, where his research centered on designing software to make the U.S. Congress and the federal courts more transparent and understandable to citizens. He has extensive hands-on experience at the intersection of technology and policy, with a focus on information security, privacy and open government. He has worked at Google in both engineering and public policy roles, at the Electronic Frontier Foundation as a technologist, and at the U.S. Department of Labor, where he helped develop and implement the Department’s open government plan. He has also evaluated the security of electronic voting machines for the Secretary of State of California, which led to concrete policy changes that improved the integrity of elections throughout the state. In addition to his Ph.D., he holds a B.S. in electrical engineering and computer sciences from UC Berkeley. CV |

Aaron Rieke served as an attorney with Federal Trade Commission (FTC), where he worked to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive data security and privacy practices. Previously, at the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), he counseled internet companies on privacy issues, led the organization's efforts on identity management, and supported its consumer privacy and cybersecurity advocacy. He regularly engaged with federal agencies and technology standards bodies. Aaron has also worked for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and developed web applications. He holds a J.D. from Berkeley Law, where he served as a Senior Editor of the California Law Review, a Fellow with the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, and an Editor of the Berkeley Technology Law Journal. He holds B.A. in philosophy from Pacific Lutheran University. CV |