What does it mean to be informed?
For my entire adult life I’ve been obsessed with politics, world affairs and technology.
I studied government in college, interned for the democratic party before I could legally drink, and spent potentially thousands of hours watching Washington Journal to the point that I openly referred to myself as a “Brian Lamb” democrat.
I went on to found my first anonymous political blog, where I wrote about the “US Attorney firing scandal” during the Bush administration, eventually took a journalism class from a reporter who worked on the Savings and Loan scandals in the 80’s, and quickly realized that I didn’t just want to do “politics” and I didn’t want to be a “journalist” – I wanted to be the best researcher I could possibly be. Around that time, I was fortunate to be able to work on President Obama’s 2007 campaign and learn about digital strategies through my hands-on work directing new media in some of the primary states.
Fast forward a few years, and I worked as a top level opposition researcher for numerous political and corporate interests, while also leading digital efforts for many of those folks. I co-founded a video research company, and co-founded another that conducted political advocacy over the phone, and eventually branched out on my own to do even more niche research projects and lead more digital projects.
Once GDPR started to be discussed in earnest, I was enthusiastic about cleaning up the privacy concerns on the internet and started to learn more about data supply chain audits / privacy audits. I eventually got a CIPP/US privacy certificate, which is typically held by attorneys or people working in the privacy industry.
I supported an audit of Google’s advertising systems, funded by the Brave browser, and conducted quite a few specific data supply chain investigations into advertising problems (I coined the phrase “Dark Pool Sales Houses” in the advertising context and helped raise questions about DIRECT account mislabeling within ads.txt). I’ve nurtured my career using my technical and political savvy to help prepare for future risk. My audit into the Grindr dating app uncovered problems there and there is an ongoing GDPR fine, but we’ve also since learned that Grindr data was used to dox a gay priest – the tip of the iceberg for how these digital systems can create real world harm.
I was a strong supporter of California’s new privacy laws (I built the website for the successful CPRA campaign), and have worked with countless reporters over the years to investigate holes in laws and policies that put people at risk. I’ve also worked closely reporting problems to the government, and some of my research into the “PAF Gang” subdomain compromises was publicly acknowledged by the Italian government, and privately acknowledged elsewhere.
More recently, I’ve taken my expertise in privacy and data supply chain practices into the world of bot security, and have been trying to navigate the complexities of these data supply chains and the impacts on people and real world politics. I’ve been quoted in literally hundreds of news pieces, on countless topics that are too diverse to list, oftentimes featuring my own novel research and insights.
Now, why did I type all this out?
I’m still uninformed on plenty of topics – and I still must read constantly to stay on top of political and world affairs, not to mention the massive amounts of technical journals and research to digest. Being able to predict the future is a reflection of your ability to parse the present. And unfortunately, many so-called experts don’t spend time parsing the present, because they resent or repudiate something going on, so they think about “why they wish XYZ wasn’t the way it was” instead of thinking about “why XYZ is the way it is” – and this worldview makes it impossible to actually create cogent theories of change.
But me? I’m still constantly on the edge of politics and technology, and constantly fighting to stay on top of global political realities, because if you aren’t doing that, you really aren’t engaged in the politics of now, and eventually you’ll be a relic of the past.