David Vladeck’s 2009 arrival at the Bureau of Consumer Protection signaled a significant shift in the philosophy of online consumer rights. Previously, Internet privacy policies put the onus on the consumer to scroll through pages of fine print in order to find out whether, say, signing up for a particular website or service would result in a company tracking their online activity. Vladeck’s agency took on that particular issue in a lawsuit against Sears—which resulted in the retail giant being forced to destroy all data it had collected as part of what the FTC called a “deceptive” customer research program.
#2 in Navigators Combined score: 70.4
Another hero of the anti-SOPA/PIPA crowd, Jimmy Wales, synonymous with the sixth-most popular website in the world, made a big splash last January when Wikipedia went black for 24 hours to protest the proposed antipiracy laws. Wales also used the Wikimedia Foundation—Wikipedia’s philanthropic arm—to raise money to combat SOPA and PIPA. Last year, he took home the prestigious Gottlieb Duttweiler Prize. “The only way we can progress, make society better, make the world better, is by understanding, by knowing, and so it’s really important that as many people as possible have access to good quality information,” Wales said after accepting the award.
#3 in Navigators Combined score: 66.8
Daniel Weitzner’s public career in Internet policy began in the 1990s, when he was a cofounder of the Center for Democracy and Technology and an advocate for an open Internet with protections for children. A little more than a year into his current job at the White House, Weitzner is best known as one of the most prominent spokespersons for the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. He recently caused a minor stir at a European Institute luncheon when he explained that President Obama does not endorse privacy by default, which would require companies like Google to build in user-privacy protections.
#8 in Navigators Combined score: 62.6
After about two years as Twitter CEO, Evan Williams in 2010 made way for chief operating officer Dick Costolo to take the top post. Since then, Williams has kept a toe in the Twitterverse while dipping into new ventures. Last June, along with fellow Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, he relaunched Obvious, the tech incubator that spawned Twitter. Williams’s newest tech baby, Lift, a mobile application for personal goal attainment led by Tony Stubblebine, is nearly ready for launch.
#1 in Personalities Combined score: 76.2
With a venture-capital career spanning more than 25 years and a passion for blogging, Fred Wilson in many ways is the archetype of the technology financier. He founded Union Square Ventures in 2004 with Brad Burnham, and the firm is an investor in some of the most buzzed-about companies, including Twitter, Tumblr, Zynga, and Etsy. Prior to Union Square Ventures, Wilson cofounded Flatiron Partners, a high-profile investment fund that operated throughout the dotcom bubble of the late ’90s, but was shuttered in 2001 after the bubble burst.
#5 in Evangelists Combined score: 67.0
If Robert Wright were just a bestselling author of mind-bending books on philosophy, psychology, game theory, and technology, he’d probably still make our list. But Wright, a longtime editor, commentator, and teacher, has also created a key online forum for others like him: Bloggingheads.tv. Its frank and spirited current-events “diavlogs” have attracted some of the biggest names in journalism for wide-ranging conversations that one might not find in the mainstream press. In his spare time, Wright serves as a senior editor at The Atlantic.
#2 in Opinionists Combined score: 71.2
Ron Wyden has been a senator since 1996, but over the past year he also became a hero to the Internet free-speech crowd with his vocal opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act (SOPA and PIPA). In 2011 he placed a legislative hold on PIPA while major Internet voices—from Wikipedia to Reddit—effectively killed the bill. “You can't come up with sensible Internet policy on the fly,” Wyden said. Last month on the Senate floor, Wyden denounced the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, over the fear that, like SOPA and PIPA, CISPA would erode online privacy.
#1 in Navigators Combined score: 71.4
Another Washington wonk with a philosophical bent, Matt Yglesias took his talents from a much trafficked slot at ThinkProgress to Slate’s vaunted MoneyBox column late last year. There, he’s combined rigorous analysis with his trademark wit, never afraid to roll a few heads in the process. His latest book, The Rent Is Too Damn High, turned a bright light onto a much ignored corner of domestic policy: housing costs. He and fellow opinionists Ezra Klein and Jonathan Chait (all alumni of the beleaguered American Prospect) form a trio that makes for a powerful left-wing force among the commentariat.
#3 in Opinionists Combined score: 69.2
Video calls used to seem like a fantasy for the distant future, but when Zennström and Janus Friis unleashed Skype in 2003, video phoning became low-cost and accessible. In 2005, eBay bought the company for $2.5 billion, then sold it to investors in 2009 for $2.75 billion. In 2011, Microsoft bought it for a whopping $8.5 billion. Zennström is a leading figure in tech venture capital via his firm Atomico--whose investment in Angry Birds parent Rovio is estimated to be worth more than $225 million, according to Business Insider.
#8 in Innovators Combined score: 55.4
Mark Zuckerberg is at the center of the most hyped and most watched tech event of the year: the Facebook IPO. The social-media wunderkind, who wed his longtime girlfriend Priscilla Chan the day after the company’s May 18 IPO, founded Facebook from his Harvard dorm room. As it has grown into the largest social media site in the world (it has 900 million users), he’s transitioned from an anti-social and misanthropic programmer to superstar CEO. Given the lackluster and litigious IPO, though—the stock price plummeted on initial weeks of trading, and investors have filed lawsuits alleging the company hid negative information regarding the IPO—his leadership skills have been called into question. On the bright side, the growing pressures may offer a chance for Zuckerberg, only 28 years old, to redefine his influence.
#3 in Visionaries Combined score: 92.0
One of the Internet’s foremost internationalists, Ethan Zuckerman helped found Global Voices, a network of more than 500 bloggers worldwide. He was a founder of Tripod.com and studied at the preeminent Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Zuckerman has broken new ground on the Web’s ability to promote both distraction and civic action. As he puts it, “If there’s no porn, the tool doesn't work. If there are no activists, it doesn't work well.” As director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media, Zuckerman is working to develop the web as a platform for global change.
#8 in Evangelists Combined score: 59.0
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