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Forum: Tech Leaders Highlight Security as Key Policy Issue

By Ideas Lab Staff May 22, 2013

Technology leaders from different fields convened at POLITICO’s Emerging Tech Leaders event this week.

As new social media sites debut and entrepreneurs gain a footing in former government-only fields, federal policy now has a heightened role in the tech industry.

Panelists at POLITICO’s Emerging Tech Leaders event Tuesday afternoon stressed the importance of a range of policies, from education reform to strengthening the protection of intellectual property and online privacy.


Evan Burfield, a cofounder of the new 1776 startup incubator in D.C., said a variety of tech policy issues affect startups in the Washington area – not just government and large businesses.

That’s why 1776 was created, he said. The incubator provides resources for entrepreneurs while helping their organizations succeed. Burfield said he and co-founder Donna Harris realized through their work with Startup America that many government assets in Washington were not accessible for startups that wanted to break into traditional government fields, such as transportation or healthcare.

“Frankly those have been communities speaking different language, wearing different clothes, hanging out in different places,” he said.

But the intersection of tech and policy isn’t as divisive as some might think. “On most every issue that affects startups, you see a lot of bipartisan support,” Burfield said.

Andy Ozment, senior director for cybersecurity at the White House, said recent online security threats highlight the importance of his job as well as the relationship between the government and private sector.

After all, 80 percent of online security threats can be mitigated by implementing basic cybersecurity methods, Ozment said. Moving forward, the President’s Executive Order on cybersecurity will focus on information sharing, protection of privacy and other standards, including a uniform national law to increase security as well as more effective law enforcement statutes.

Allyson Kapin, co-founder of Rad Campaign, a digital agency that assists nonprofits, said she agrees that Congress should step in with legislation regarding online privacy, because she does not “see the industry self-regulating.”

Kapin said many Internet users do not understand the legal jargon in notices they sign or click when joining a new social media service, for example. “We are signing a lot of rights away that we really have no idea we are signing away,” she said.

At Twitter, steps are already being taken to mitigate concerns, said Mindy Finn, director of strategic partnerships for the social media organization.

As she was interviewed, the conversation steered toward encouraging more women to be leaders in technology.

“Women in tech has been a strange development,” Finn said. “It seems like there would be more (women leaders).”

Kapin also stressed the need for more women to gain skills in technology. In 2007, she founded Women Who Tech: A Telesummit for Women in Technology to encourage women to gain skills in the nonprofit and political campaign world.