Video: Dominique Lazanski: Fighting for Digital Freedom

I asked Dominique to speak on how she is fighting for digital freedom at the detailed end of the Micklethwait scale, what’s involved in doing it, how is it paid for and how can we help? We learned how she got into the business of Westminster, how she manages to get paid for doing good work in politics; her struggle to find funding for a serious and specialised libertarian digital rights think tank; and the informal networks that keep things going in the meantime.

I want to draw out that bit about how she got into politics as a source of work. She had retired, bruised and frustrated, from left-dominated California and sought to live and work internationally. She had worked on big name projects, including the iTunes rollout and this hard work was about to pay off. Leaving for the UK and joining LSE she may have gotten out of the US but wasn’t yet out of a left-dominated environment. Her break came from helping to run the Libertarian Society while at LSE and coming under the radar of a think tank – The Taxpayers Alliance – she was asked to help out on a project. That project was canned – it’s not uncommon in any line of work – but she was “in” and continued to get offers of work and develop a reputation from there.

I think it’s important to draw that out and make that explicit and available outside of the video. Getting ahead in her career allowed her to take control and make choices and to be ready to accept opportunities that came her way. A simple story but an inspiration to patience and hard work.

Thursday Speaker: Dominique Lazanski

I first met Dominique Lazanski at an ASI drinks event celebrating victory at the Hayek vs Keynes debate at the LSE. At the time, I had just started up this website and with the help of Andy Janes we were spamming the libertarian community with annoying little yellow cards with the web and twitter address on them, and making an absurdly ambitious sales pitch for what we wanted to do with the site. I spammed Dominique and was encouraged to find that here was a person campaigning from the right on the issue of digital rights. The Open Rights Group, under the leadership of former Green Party activist Jim Killock was moving no further towards the centre and an actual Classical Liberal operating in this space was good news.

Dominique writes for at least three group blogs and online magazines, who universally describe her as having 12 years of real work experience in the IT industry, including Silicon Valley, and being heavily involved in policy work. The Huffington Post provides the most useful bio:

Dominique Lazanski is Head of Digital Policy at the TaxPayers’ Alliance and the Senior Fellow, Technology Policy at Big Brother Watch

Dominique has spent over 12 years in the Internet industry with many of those years working in Silicon Valley. She has a long held interest in public policy and participatory government. She has written and spoken on digital issues over the years from a free market and entrepreneurial perspective. She holds degrees from Cornell University and the London School of Economics.

It turns out she has spent time at Yahoo and EBay as a taxonomist and a data-manager; and a year with Apple, where she was “responsible for creating and pushing out the iTunes online stores”. She has also worked with music labels as well as Cloud computing firm EMC. Since then, she has taken up working as a freelance consultant and worked on the International Chamber of Commerce’s Cyber Conference, where William Hague was keynote speaker.

I next caught up with her at the talk she gave for the Open Rights Group at the Rose and Crown, entitled “ITU: Should the UN take over the Internet?”. I thought the answer was pretty obvious and ensured that I went along to say “No, of course not”, and I was pleased to find myself completely redundant. Dominique’s talk on that topic went something like this: “So the title of this walk is Should the UN take over the Internet? Well, the answer is obviously: no! right? So what’s the background?…” The background, it turns out is so arcane and complicated that I would do myself an injustice if I attempted to relate it here. In summary, the ITU, a nasty messy pseudo-governmental bureaucracy was about to vote itself into a position of authority for things it had no real business being a part of, and without asking any of the people that mattered, like the users, for instance. The detail Dominique commanded on the inner workings of this entity was astonishing, and it came as no surprise at all that she was on her way out to Dubai to their WCIT meeting to fight the good fight and try to talk some sense into them.

At our last speaking event Brian Micklethwait put libertarian activists on a scale. The simple work of defining libertarianism and raising up the flag was at one end. Detailed policy work, such as deciding how to privatize roads, are at the other end. Dominique seems to operate with such minute and frankly boring details that it seems as though Brian will need a longer scale. It was about half way through her talk for the Open Rights Group that I realised that the main thing of interest about her is how she manages to deal with all of that. She tells me that she “only” spends half her time on this part of her career but frankly I feel I am lucky to spend a few hours in a day on my politics and so how she sustains this economically is a seriously interesting question.

Dominique will speak about this, and about the content of her work, including her new manifesto on digital freedoms, on Thursday at the Rose and Crown.