Just half an hour flipping through my contacts produced half a dozen friends and acquaintances who didn’t require a ‘road to Damascus’ conversion to see what was wrong with big tech or the ways governments abuse it. Nighat Dad runs the Digital Rights Foundation in Pakistan, defending online freedom of expression and privacy for women, minorities and dissidents. That’s real courage. Gus Hosein has worked in tech and human rights for over 20 years, runs Privacy International, the UK-based non-profit, and is the most visionary thinker I know on how to shake up our assumptions about why things are as they are. Bianca Wylie founded the volunteer-run Open Data Institute Toronto, and works on open data, citizen privacy and civic engagement. The “ Jane Jacobs of the Smart Cities Age,” she’s been a key figure in opening up and slowing down Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs juggernaut in Toronto. Aral Balkan runs Small Technology Foundation and works on both the tools and the policies to resist surveillance capitalism. Unafraid of being unpopular, even with other activists, Balkan freely hammers rights organizations or conferences for taking big tech’s sponsorship money while criticizing the companies’ practices. In the western Balkans, hvale vale works tirelessly and cheerfully on women’s rights, sexual rights and the political and practical path to a feminist internet. Robin Gross, a Californian intellectual property lawyer, could have put her persistence and sheer pizazz to work defending big entertainment companies, but instead she’s worked for decades against the copyright maximalism that strangles artists’ creativity and does nothing to increase their incomes. I would love to hear their voices amplified, not (just) the voices of those who took a decade and more to work out the rottenness at the core of big tech.
—Maria Farrell, The Prodigal Techbro