Last Week in Tech Law & Policy, Vol.5: Funding Privacy

(by Joseph de Raismes, Colorado Law 3L)

This week, I would like to look at internet privacy, how privacy tools are funded, and what  the future of privacy should look like.

Last week, ProPublica ran Julia Angwin’s excellent profile of GnuPG’s lead developer Werner Koch. Koch wrote the free email  encryption tool GNuPG in 1997, and has been keeping the project alive basically single-handedly ever since. In response to ProPublica’s profile, Koch received an outpouring of support in the form of private donations and grants.

Werner Koch’s situation drew the attention of cryptographer Matt Green, who questioned the entire framework of how we fund the long-term development of privacy tools.  In his post, Matt draws attention to the fact that the US government has been an extremely important funding source for key privacy tools, but questions the sustainability of the current framework for funding research and development in this area.

In light of the Snowden revelations, real name systems, perma-cookies, browser fingerprinting, and other sophisticated tracking measures, internet privacy seems more and more like a thing of the past. Is internet privacy a value that should be fostered (and funded) in a cohesive manner?