Last Friday, the Washington Office of the American Library Association (ALA) hosted a luncheon for the 2016 Google Policy Fellows to discuss ALA’s public policy work. The Google Policy Fellowship gives undergraduate, graduate, and law students (like me) the opportunity to spend the summer working at public interest groups engaged in Internet and technology policy issues. While most organizations are in D.C., others are in Boston, Ottawa, San Francisco, and additional cities around the world.
Other fellows at the lunch included Matt McCoy from Tech Freedom; Lindsay Bembenek of the American Enterprise Institute; Apratim Vidyarthi, who is at the Center for Democracy and Technology; David Morar from the Internet Education Foundation; Cristina Contreras Zamora of the National Hispanic Media Coalition; and Raymond Russell, who is at the Mercatus Center. OITP intern Brian Clark also joined the lunch. They all shared their educational backgrounds, interests, and experiences at their host organizations.
ALA’s Washington staffers Emily Sheketoff, Alan Inouye, Carrie Russell, and Larra Clark shared their policy focus and experience at ALA. In doing so, they explained the importance of information and technology policies to libraries (from copyright to telecommunications and privacy), the underlying principles of libraries, and how ALA’s Washington office strives to advance tech policies that reflect those core principles. In particular, the discussion covered ALA’s past and current efforts to reform policy, including the privacy of library records, Universal Service Fund modernization, Net Neutrality, unlicensed spectrum, internet filtering at libraries, and copyright.
Fellows then had the opportunity to field questions to ALA staffers, which prompted interesting discussions about the privacy of Internet browsing history and encryption efforts at local libraries, broadband investment and competition, E-Rate, cyber-security standards, the Right to be Forgotten, and the growing need for copyright law to reflect our digital age by better protecting users. Given libraries’ prominent position in communities and their mission to serve communities, they can play a vital role in protecting patrons’ privacy, spurring broadband deployment, connecting citizens to information, and – as both content users and creators – helping craft a balanced copyright law.
The luncheon highlighted the importance of public interest organizations, like the ALA, in the technology policy arena. More importantly, it showed attendees how prominent and active the ALA has been and is in shaping forward-looking information and technology policies that benefit individuals all over the U.S. The lunch’s insightful discourse further confirmed that Google Policy Fellows have the knowledge and preparation to debate tech policies in-depth and to make a significant impact on future tech policies.