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Sascha Meinrath, Founder and Director of X-Lab, Celebrates X-Lab’s 1-Year Anniversary with Spinout!

WASHINGTON, DC - After launching a number of groundbreaking initiatives over the last year, X-Lab will celebrate its first anniversary by spinning out as an independent tech tank starting in April, announced its director and founder Sascha Meinrath. X-Lab is innovative and future-focused, built to anticipate, develop and respond to what’s next in tech policy by combining visionary leadership and in-depth technological expertise with an understanding of how regulatory and legislative debates affect the rights and freedoms of consumers.

X-Lab will be housed at the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity that works to achieve a healthier, more equitable world through a diverse array of technology, conservation, education, global health, and other philanthropic initiatives. X-Lab was created with the premise that no one should ever have to choose between their fundamental liberties and the technologies they want to use.  X-Lab’s work empowers tinkerers and the digital craftsmen and women of tomorrow to develop human-centric, rights-preserving innovations.

“Today, Washington needs bold leadership that can chart a course through the increasingly complex tensions that new technologies are creating,” stated Sascha Meinrath, X-Lab’s founder and director.  “I’ve been honored to work with many of the smartest technical minds on the planet, to launch both the Open Technology Institute and now X-Lab.  X-Lab is conceptualized from the ground up to provide a fundamentally new kind of collaborative environment for the next generation of tech policy visionaries.”

In just its first year, X-Lab has kicked off several programs including Commotion Labs, the Civil Liberties Coalition, the Circumvention Tech Audit Lab, the PrivWare Lab, and a participatory democracy platform called Nobis, being built in collaboration with DemocracyOS and Loomio. Meinrath previously founded the Open Technology Institute in 2008, which rapidly grew to become one of the leading tech policy organizations in the nation’s capital. He stepped down as OTI’s director and New America’s vice-president in 2014 to launch X-Lab, the latest in a number of successful projects he’s curated and developed, including the Commotion Wireless Project, Measurement Lab, and the Open Internet Tools Project. Meinrath has been recognized as one of “Time Tech 40” and as one of Newsweek’s Top 100 in their “Digital Power Index.”

“The Open Technology Institute is a vital and exciting part of New America, one that is helping to shape our future at the intersection of policy and technology in a wide range of fields,” stated Anne-Marie Slaughter, president of New America. “Sascha founded and built OTI over a number of years, for which we are deeply grateful. We expect great things from him as he spins out his new venture.”

“Sascha Meinrath is an internationally recognized technology visionary whose work has inspired a new generation of public interest advocates and directly impacted national decision-making at the highest levels,” stated Eric Kessler, president of the New Venture Fund. “The New Venture Fund is thrilled to welcome Sascha and looks forward to the many ways that we will change the world for the better together.”

Pia Mancini's TED Global talk

Pia Mancini recently gave a widely viewed talk at TED Global (500,000 views and counting!) on rewiring democratic representation in Argentina and beyond through her open-source platform, Democracy OS. We are very excited to be working with Pia on closely integrating their participatory democracy platform, Democracy OS, with Commotion Wireless.

FCC's Hybrid Approach to Net Neutrality Makes No-one Happy.

Days after Verizon launches a tech news site that bans reporting on network neutrality, the FCC is hinting at a "hybrid" approach to governing network neutrality. “Broadband connections to consumers would be regulated lightly as a "retail" service. Lines between websites and services (or "edge providers," in FCC-speak) and broadband providers would be regulated under old rules written for old phone networks. [...] Net neutrality advocates argue that the third option, the hybrid approach, isn't the best way to move forward since the plan is so convoluted it probably won't hold up under the inevitable legal challenge."

A new Crypto War on the steps of Capitol Hill.

"FBI Director James Comey has launched a new "crypto war" by asking Congress to update a two-decade-old law to make sure officials can access information from people's cellphones and other communication devices [...] The call is expected to trigger a major Capitol Hill fight about whether or not tech companies need to give the government access to their users' data [...] The notion that it's not a backdoor; it's a front door - that's just wordplay," said Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert and fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. "It just makes no sense."

President sends strong signal to FCC's Tom Wheeler to protect net neutrality.

"President Obama said late Thursday that he was "unequivocally committed" to net neutrality and firmly opposed to any proposal that would let companies buy an Internet fast lane to deliver their content more quickly to consumers. The statements [...] gave a strong signal to Mr. Obama's Democratic appointees on the Federal Communications Commission that he wants them to heed the overwhelming public sentiment expressed in 3.7 million comments sent to the commission in recent months concerning a set of rules proposed by the commission meant to protect net neutrality. A large majority of those comments, solicited by the commission, came out against Internet fast lanes - a practice known as paid prioritization."

You can't build a backdoor that only the good guys can walk through.

"Encryption protects against cybercriminals, industrial competitors, the Chinese secret police and the FBI. You're either vulnerable to eavesdropping by any of them, or you're secure from eavesdropping from all of them[...] FBI Director James Comey claimed that Apple's move allows people to "place themselves beyond the law" and also invoked that now overworked "child kidnapper." John J. Escalante, chief of detectives for the Chicago police department now holds the title of most hysterical: "Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile. It's all bluster. Of the 3,576 major offenses for which warrants were granted for communications interception in 2013, exactly one involved kidnapping. And, more importantly, there's no evidence that encryption hampers criminal investigations in any serious way. In 2013, encryption foiled the police nine times, up from four in 2012­ -- and the investigations proceeded in some other way. This is why the FBI's scare stories tend to wither after public scrutiny."

Fast Internet lanes for the rich; slow ones for the rest of us.

AT&T has already announced plans for such a service, called Sponsored Data, on its cellular data network. Among other things, this could allow content providers to cover the cost of delivering their data to consumers, making their content more attractive. That concept may get more complicated if encryption comes into play. For example, in some developing countries, Facebook and mobile operators together are offering cheap mobile data deals that only cover Facebook. There are encrypted services that can tunnel through Facebook to give users access to other service, but carriers will want to know if anyone is circumventing the exclusive Facebook deal. "The problem is that providers are going to say, 'We need to be able to know that you're not doing that, therefore we need to be able to ensure that you are not encrypting,'" Meinrath said."