Public servants defining digital regulatory boundaries. View as a gallery.


Ron Wyden

U.S. Senator

  • 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.

    Combined score: 71.4


David Vladeck

Director, Bureau of Consumer Protection

  • 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.

    Combined score: 70.4


Jimmy Wales

Cofounder, Wikipedia

  • 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.

    Combined score: 66.8


Jon Leibowitz

Chairman, Federal Trade Commission

  • It's no wonder David Vladeck has been shifting the emphasis at the Bureau of Consumer Protection from pro-business to pro-consumer: his boss, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, is of the same ilk. Leibowitz's most recent pet project is combating what he calls the cyberazzi (PDF), or the reams of invisible data catchers that track individuals' online movements for advertising purposes. Leibowitz, an advocate of an open-yet-safe Internet, recently said he'd consider a "chaperoned" version of Facebook for kids younger than 13.

    Combined score: 66.8


Viviane Reding

Justice Commissioner, European Commission

  • Viviane Reding has the distinction of being named Internet Villain of 2007 by the Internet Service Providers Association, a pro-ISP group in Britain—which is a sure sign to free-Internet activists that she's on the right side of history. During the past year, Reding has spoken out in favor of personal data protection for users in European Union member nations, and introduced a law in early 2012 that would allow Internet users the right to force websites and tech firms to delete their personal data if there is no legitimate reason the data be kept.

    Combined score: 65.8


Alec Ross

Senior Adviser for Innovation to Hillary Clinton

  • During Alec Ross's tenure at the State Department, which began in 2009, he has been at the forefront of using social media and the Web to improve citizen involvement in government, a practice his office calls "21st-Century Statecraft." Ross has been so good at integrating the new Internet into the old State Department that a Washington Post blog in April called his boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "the Internet's new queen of cool." Not to be outdone by his private sector tech-world counterparts, Ross came out against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act during the spring, offering that President Obama himself opposed the law.

    Combined score: 64.6


Brad Burnham

Partner, Union Square Ventures

  • As a venture capitalist, Brad Burnham backs disruptive companies—and has spoken out against large corporations that lobby for new regulations to thwart their growth. An industry vet, he began his career at AT&T in 1979. "When I first got into the venture-capital business in the early '90s, it seemed to me that half of the deals I brought to the partnership were dismissed with the line, 'Sure it's cool, but what the heck do they do if Microsoft decides to enter this business?' Today the role of the dominant player is played by Google."

    Combined score: 64.4


Daniel Weitzner

Deputy Chief Technology Officer, White House

  • 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

    Combined score: 62.6


Sascha Meinrath

Director, New America Foundation Open Technology Initiative

  • Since 2009, Sascha Meinrath has been spearheading the Open Technology Initiative at New America Foundation: an effort to develop open-source, low-cost community wireless networks, particularly in underserved areas. In April, the NAF announced the formation of the OTI and named Meinrath a vice president of the foundation. It's no surprise that Meinrath was one of the more prominent Internet culture leaders to oppose SOPA and PIPA last year.

    Combined score: 60.0


Mike Masnick

Founder, Techdirt

  • Mike Masnick is perhaps best known to the tech world as founder of the popular blog Techdirt, but to most Americans he's the guy who in 2005 coined the phrase "the Streisand effect," which refers to the Web's tendency to subvert attempts at hiding information. (Barbra Streisand had sued a photographer to take down an aerial photo of her house. The image had been downloaded six times, but after the lawsuit became public, more than 400,000 people visited the photographer's website.) More recently, Masnick has been using his Techdirt platform to argue vigorously in favor of Internet copyright legislation that benefits the public first and foremost.

    Combined score: 59.2

Lifetime Achievement:

Harold Greene

Federal Judge

  • A beloved Washington, D.C., federal judge who came to America as a refugee from Nazi Germany, Harold Greene saw—and shaped—more than his fair share of history. After emigrating, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II, interrogating German prisoners; later, as a key aide to Robert F. Kennedy, he helped engineer both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Acts of 1965. But it was his steady stewardship in the landmark 1982 decision on the sprawling AT&T antitrust case that Green left his mark on the tech world, breaking up the telephone colossus, bringing competition to the telecommunications industry, and paving the way for pretty much every innovation of the past 30 years, from cellular phones to text messaging.

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