Why I joined the TechCongress Team: Katherine Pratt

The first time I said the Oath of Office, to become an officer in the Air Force, I took note that I was giving my allegiance not to a person, but to the Constitution of the United States.  This document was unwavering during my military service, and continues to be now that I’m a veteran. Such constancy is in sharp contrast to the world of academia where I now reside as a PhD Candidate in Electrical Engineering.  Researchers and scientists around the world are pushing the bounds of human knowledge, changing what we know to be true and possible on a seemingly daily basis. But what happens when the two collide: when the mysteries of innovation meet the transparency of liberty and freedom.  What happens then?

There is no doubt that technological advancement improves quality of life.  But, what has become incredibly clear is that there are often times no rules for whether or not a device or tool has equitable and fair impact.  Many engineers do not have the education or training to include metrics like privacy in their designs, and recent events have shown how little the general public knows about what happens to their information in the digital realm.  Who is responsible for this kind of regulation and legislation? Should it be the government?

These are the questions that I have come to Congress to begin to answer.  I have no illusions of grandeur that I will single-handedly be able to write and pass sweeping digital consumer privacy legislation.  However, what I can do for the duration of my time as a Congressional Innovation Scholar is learn: to learn about technology policy at the federal level.  These lessons will drive my dissertation, and discussions with other academics about how tools like the Constitution and regulatory policy can inform more meaningful technological advancement.