In this episode of Tech Intersect, I speak with Gabrielle Hibbert, a Fellow at the Decentralized Future Council. In Focusing on policy education and advocacy, the DFC is working to build the next stage of the internet- one of innovation and human empowerment. Gabrielle started her career in public policy after working across both Capitol Hill and various non-profit and consultant agencies across the DMV. In 2018, she began researching blockchain and programming smart contracts after learning about decentralized ledger technologies (DLT). In 2020, she co-led the College of William & Mary’s Blockchain Lab. She is also currently the Government and Policy Officer at Least Authority, a security consulting and privacy firm based in Berlin, Germany.
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Gabrielle Hibbert: I wanna go back to something that I think is crucial to understanding why a lot of Americans don't think about privacy, and I think it does have to do something with privilege. Mm-hmm. , and we don't tease that out enough. There is this prevailing notion that, well, I have nothing to. You can go through my statements if you want.
Right. I, I get that a lot. But people tend to not recognize that as a privilege, right? Because there are tons of communities here in the US that don't have the privilege of moving through space, uh, with little regard to hyper surveillance. Mm-hmm. and. With that. I think that that's a cultural reason why.
There haven't been more conversations around privacy and of three,
Tonya Evans: Welcome to Tech Intersect. I'm your host, Tanya Evans, and my life and work exists at the heart of law, business, and technology. Yeah, I've earned a few fancy titles and degrees over the years, but the bottom line is I'm a writer, speaker, teacher, and lifelong.
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In this episode of Tech Intersect, I am so excited to welcome Gabrielle Hibbard to the show. She's the Security and Privacy Fellow for the decentralized Future Council. She started her career in public policy after working across both Capitol Hill and various non-profit and consultant agencies in the D M V area.
As I used to say, when I lived in the district, and I invited her on the show to talk about how to ensure government regulation. And we know that it's coming is sensible as it relates to the broader crypto and blockchain ecosystem. But also I. And how we make sure privacy is at the center of the decentralized web and policy initiatives.
And also a common theme here on tech intersect how we can avoid the mistakes of web two and make both through policy and legislation making Web three equalizing, leveling the playing field, making it an inclusive space for all. It's a tall order. If ever there's been a chance in this moment, given the push for a decentralized web, it's now, we will talk about all of that and more in a moment.
But first, Gabrielle, welcome.
Gabrielle Hibbert: Thank you so much for having me. I am again, super excited to talk about topics that are most near and dear to my heart. And yeah,
Tonya Evans: I'm really, um, happy that. we have this chance. It would it. It's the first, but it certainly will not be the last because your background, experience, and your passion.
It's so clear in the work that you're working on is so important and what I've found after doing this show for two years, not a lot of people can have this discussion. I have people who can talk the regs and the legislation and policy initiatives and the technology and the future of work and wealth and creativity, but I believe it's, it's all for not, if we aren't centering and empowering those who are systemically marginalized.
Right. So if we can't do that, then we are just replicating web two. And I know you're as passionate about that as I am, so I'm, I'm more excited than you. I know you don't believe it, but it's actually true. Um, but before we jump into the heart and the meat of what we hope to speak about, talk about your background and even what led you to work, do the work that you're doing
Gabrielle Hibbert: currently.
Yeah, definitely. I love talking about this because it really shows. How full circle your career can really be. Uh, as you mentioned, I started off my career on Capitol Hill. I worked for, uh, Senator Mark Warner, and I really loved connecting with communities and people through policy. After a couple years of doing a little bit of the advocacy work, I moved on to various non-profits, uh, and NGOs, which again, was an extension of that advocacy work and community building that I really enjoyed on the hill.
After that, I, I wanted to get my master's, uh, which I did at Brandeis University, focusing on social policy and development. And, uh, I, I have this thing that I tell myself before I go on any sort of educational or uh, uh, kinda social journey. I tell myself, Try something new. Mm. And the first semester of, uh, Grad school year, I decided to take a course called Blockchain and International Development.
Nice. At the time I was like, what do these two things have in common? Uh, this was a couple years after my undergraduate roommates were mining Bitcoin in their dorm. Nice. . So, so I had that as a, uh, as the, the, the point at which. Bringing in a lot of my reference to blockchain, and I had known nothing else outside of that.
And after taking that course, I, I realized that there were tons of similarities between blockchain development and policy development. Mm. And. Right then and there, I decided to pivot my studies from being purely policy focused to more development and tech focused within the policy. So I took a little bit of courses in, uh, computer science while also focusing on Ethereum and smart contract development.
And from there I've been trying to both do the work of educating policy makers and people within the advocacy space around decentralized technologies, while also bringing the policy around to tech space. They're kind of siloed at the moment, which is causing a lot of friction, uh, which we are now seeing, uh, come to life right
Tonya Evans: I love that you described it that way because from a, a tech point of view, you know, the, the secret sauce of, of distributed ledgers is, is removing friction. Whenever possible. Mm-hmm. , right? Uh, we have new intermediaries that might creep up, but hopefully they won't be rent seeking that they're additive and they're actually building in the space, Right.
Rather than extracting value. But it's interesting that, um, what you are describing is serving as a bridge because developing in isolation policy that's gonna have these broad reaching implications. On the tech side, you know, Deb's having their heads down and just building, building, building. And then we'll figure out the policy later.
No, there's this bridge, uh, that needs to happen in order for both to coexist in a way that makes the tech better. Mm-hmm. and makes the policy better. Right.
Gabrielle Hibbert: Yep. Yep. And I, I think that my, my push to be that bridge comes from my prior work in translation. So I used to be a German and Russian translator, and I love taking a, a set of data, translating to something else that is able to be read or understood by another population.
Mm. And. There, there hasn't been that many people that can do that in the type policy realm. I see it getting more and more popular, but right before starting out in 2018, there really weren't many people that I could look up to and, and see that they were doing that. That work of translating what are the devs doing too?
Right. What are policy makers and regulators doing
Tonya Evans: as you engage with, with policymakers, um, on the. For example, have you found through your work that regulators, policy makers are actually better able to have the conversation than a few years back? Yeah,
Gabrielle Hibbert: I would definitely say that the education has definitely grown, and I think it's a combination of a couple of different factors.
I think one being. The incredible boom, uh, that we had in the space post, uh, 2018 after the kind of last crypto winter was when a lot of eyes were back on the space, and that helped kind of usher in more people to talk about. Okay, so explain to me what the use case is for. What three are with the use cases where smart contracts are blockchain.
Right. And this helped launch more conversations, at least here, not only in DC but in other kinda informal industry, uh, spaces that I've been part of. Mm-hmm. . So that's been the kind of the main factor. Mm-hmm. . In addition to that, I think it's also been more. of, I wanna say, is I think a bit of a need to be more technologically forward.
One of my good colleagues. Worked on getting the Tech Congress initiative up and running, which was partially needed due to the fact that there weren't a lot of technologically savvy, uh, spaces within the hill. Right. And I think. This whole era of wanting to be more tech forward has made these conversations and, you know, trying to tease out what will Web three mean for the United States, or what will AI mean for the, the future of work?
Tonya Evans: Mm-hmm. . Absolutely. Well, tell us, cuz that, that's a perfect segue into, to where we're going, but final question, just about background and context. Talk to the listeners about what the Decentralized Future Council is. What it, you know, it's, it's, it's called to arms, uh, is in terms of the focus, uh, as a matter of, of policy and, and policy in.
Gabrielle Hibbert: Definitely. So the Decentralized Feature Council is a collective of like-minded public interest technologists, such as myself, that go in and talk to the public and policymakers about the opportunities within the Web three ecosystem. We don't talk a lot about cryptocurrency cuz our focus is, Building out what are some social impact use cases for by three.
Mm-hmm. and articulating that through webinars and, uh, fireside chats, podcasts, uh, and uh, community related events.
Tonya Evans: Excellent, Excellent. So when you are engaging the community and certainly policy makers, how do you approach this topic of the intersection? , or let, let me get at, at it this way, focusing on the use cases that give people a reason to lean in as opposed to run away, uh, in the other direction.
Right? I know people sometimes if they start. Looking under the hood with technology, people's eyes glaze over. I would sit there and say, Tell me more, but most people will not. I suspect that you would say, Tell me more as well, . Yes. Yes. You had a whole thing around smart contracts. So I see you, I see you.
But how do you talk to the average person and then also those in positions of power about. How policy should normatively develop in order to create the type of web three space that all can actually participate in?
Gabrielle Hibbert: Definitely. So as someone who really likes to break things down to smallest components, smallest piece, I first kind of go back to that, this idea of having a.
Shared trust, uh, within a system. And from that, I begin to bring about examples of, uh, other emerging technologies actually, uh, because I, I also have this academic background that I can't seem to let go of . So I, I talk about how there is this natural inclination to be a little bit weary. Emerging technology.
Mm-hmm. for variety of reasons. This happened with the, uh, refrigeration systems. This happened with TV and automobiles. So kind of placing that, uh, in context to where we are now with Web create technologies helps kind set, uh, some people at ease by drawing these parallels between. The tech that we use and love today.
So what we're trying to build out right now. Right? And uh, in addition to that, because there has been such a, a spotlight on the cryptocurrency realm, I do like to decouple blockchain from cryptocurrency right off the bat and say, While these two are related in some aspects, uh, they're not one and the same and they have different use cases and different ways in which people can interact with them.
Right, Right. And I think. Those two ways in which I kind of build that conversation, help kind of add some, add some calm to the conversations that take place, and I believe that people are able to have a little bit more open mindedness when I begin to talk about. I would say, I like to tell them as a, the, the non-sexy, uh, use cases of, of blockchain such as land title and grants.
Mm-hmm. or supply chain, things that we don't really hear that much about in, in the media, but are very real ways in which we can construct a better, more efficient, uh, means of conducting our social economic environ.
Tonya Evans: That's a really important way to approach the topic and, and kind of demystify and reduce the, the jargon and, you know, that resistance, right?
The barriers to entry so that you can at least have the conversation. Um, so often, you know, and I say this often on, on this show, we have this echo chamber of all crypto, all the, all the time. No crypto at any time. Right. And then people pulling you, um, based upon their own vested interest in one direction or another as an educator.
And, and I can tell in you as a lifelong learner, uh, in one who's deeply committed to research and, and historical context in order to better understand the future, it's just important to be able to be conversant in this space. We're already. And if we want to ensure that folks who were left behind in the.com boom and bust mm-hmm.
and at every iteration and acceleration in the development of technology, which is happening far more quickly in our time. When I think of my parents' generation or my, my, my. My grandparents' generation, things are just at this accelerated pace. Mm-hmm. , it's all hands on deck in terms of understanding and appreciating.
So, and for our next topic that we aren't replicating in this build of, of the next iteration of the, of the internet. Everything is so siloed and centralized now. Talk to us about some of the, the, the pitfalls and the failures of web two in order for us. Better understand the promises and the opportunities and the use cases that, that we can talk about with, with with D Web?
Gabrielle Hibbert: Yeah, definitely. So this is one of the topics that I really enjoy talking to, especially with undergraduate and graduate audiences. Perfect. That are in the, the tech policy realm. So there are, I would say, three main pillars that we still need to dismantle to get. The part of the decentralized web that we are envisioning for our future.
The first is this idea of the theory of neutrality of technological neutrality. I think that there is still this idea of that is attached to many of the projects that I see in this space, and for those that may not be as familiar with it, the theory of technological neutrality. Is that, uh, tools can either be good or bad.
It's in how you use them. Right. So if I were to take a hammer to build a house, I'm using that tool for, for good. Mm-hmm. , I take that, uh, hammer as, uh, you know, a melee weapon that's use for, for bad. Right. Right. And we're still applying. This technological theory of neutrality to a lot of emerging tech from AI to web three and crypto, and there needs to be a greater conversation on how we can be more inclusive in the design and the implementation.
Mm-hmm. of these technological tools that we are building before we can begin to realize the parts of the decentralized. We want to be in mm-hmm , but outside of the design and implementation, we still have to combat the overwhelming culture of meritocracy.
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Gabrielle Hibbert: The last one really comes into play in terms of having all people working on technology. It can't just be engineers and developers. It has to. , the artists, the policy makers, the regulators, the lawyers, attorneys, . It has to be everyone contributing. I think that these three tenants really silo the tech space and make it a really hard space to navigate in.
Mm-hmm. and in terms, Creating spaces for the decentralized web to actually flourish. Uh, you know, those, dismantling, those three is, is no easy feed, right? Right. It's, it's going to take a combination of social change reform legislation, uh, building around creating incentive models for companies to, to want to act in a way that benefit.
Everyone. Right. And, uh, a, a general understanding of what technology is, is being used for, and how we can better understand the implications of the use of said technology mm-hmm. in various contexts. So it's, it's a multi-pronged scenario that we're faced with. Mm. I still have a lot of hope that we can actually break down a lot of those barriers to get to where we want to go.
Tonya Evans: think it's an interesting time in history. Mm-hmm. , where we have. A little space there where people, for a, a host of reasons re regardless of political affiliation, have had to rely on each other for, and, and are really focusing now. And I, I think of certainly millennials, but even more Gen Z, of really understanding that this hyper competitive model is going to lead to the death destruction in mayhem of this earth.
You know, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but that just look outside. Mm-hmm. . Um, and we look at this space, uh, during the pandemic and we look at, at natural disasters, we look at things that, this idea of pulling oneself up by his, her there bootstraps and just doing it all on your own is inconsistent with nature.
Yep. Mm-hmm. , and it is not sustain. And it spills over into every aspect of, particularly when you think of building anything new. it require, I think of open source software. Mm-hmm. , I think of patent pools in order to protect the development of technology. All of those things are critically important to get those layer one solutions functioning in a way that provides interoperability and opportunity.
Mm-hmm. , and it's interesting that we're doing this specifically with technology, but it is necessarily impacted by. The rules, the regulations, the laws, the stakeholders involved in, in collaborating rather than competing. The competitive model is just falling, it's imploding at this point. It it, Do you, do you see that as well?
Gabrielle Hibbert: Yes, definitely. I, I am one of the customers, I'm not squarely millennial. I'm not squarely Gen Z. Mm-hmm. and I keep seeing the competitive mellow fall. Over and over again. And I think it's going to take people that see it and, and people that are in my generation to say, Hey, let's, let's fix some things here.
It doesn't have to work like this. There are other ways in which we can construct a more equitable and just way to live. So I think it's it. It will take time, I think. That's the hard push and pull with being in tech policy that tech moves so fast and so it's, it's easy to iterate in policy. It's a more, you know, slow moving process that while it does have an iterative process, it's leaks behind.
Right. As, uh, you know, the development in the tech space. So it's, this will always be something that we will have to contend with.
Tonya Evans: It seems that this point is particularly well made when I think of policies and and legislation in the privacy space, and I often hear. Talking about privacy, I believe I teach information privacy in addition to blockchain and the law and, and some other courses.
So I definitely get it every time I teach that, that semester. I just wanna put on a 10 foil hat and curl up in a ball. It's like, it's too late for me. Save yourselves. But I won't bore you all with my conspiracy theories in that regard. Uh, privacy is so incredibly important and when I think about a technology, For most blockchains and, and coins and tokens that are permissionless and public facing.
That's, you know, part, that's a feature, not a bug. Um, with that comes a lot of concerns around financial privacy and, and, uh, when I think of some of the best use cases, perhaps as a matter of identity and healthcare, but obviously it's screaming. But what about privacy? On one hand, I feel like you. Code there, there's a code for that.
But we're constantly tweaking. Software and laws aren't as changing as fast, but they change where, and this is a big question and we can just kind of take it bites at a time. So let, let's start here. Where does privacy fit in the conversation as a matter of inclusion in web three? Let's
Gabrielle Hibbert: start there. Yeah.
I, I think this is particularly interesting. , I began after doing some research on the space, uh, while I was at the William Mary blockchain lab. I, I got really invested in the privacy implications of, of having a transparent ledger. Right. Uh, on, on first glance. You're my, my first thought was, Oh wow. That sounds terrific.
transparent, uh, it makes it, uh, auditable in some regard. You can see where it's going. Mm. So that's what, that's what we need. But the more I looked into it and researched, I got this nagging sensation that there weren't enough privacy considerations. Mm-hmm. and. that led me to where I am today working within the privacy space, within the web three, the the larger web three space.
And I still think that it's a very small space to begin with. A lot smaller than I want it to be. Uh, just to kind of throw anecdotal evidence out there, a lot of the people that I talk to that interact with the the web free space aren't super knowledgeable about the potential privacy implications of having a transparent ledger pleasure.
Uh, and they kind of shrug it off, which I believe. It really hearkens back to the lack of privacy education that we have. Absolutely. In the US we just, we don't have it for a variety of reasons, but there are very little communities that are making enough noise about the privacy implications, right? In web three,
Tonya Evans: I've spent a lot of time thinking about it without a lot of solutions, Admittedly, to be sure.
Some of it is about education, but I wonder how much of the space has already been seated and by, you know, let, let go because of the opt-in culture of free applications. I feel like that is its own education and. You know, click here because I want this in the short term. And, and we both know if, if you're not paying for something, then you are the, you are the product.
Welcome, . Um, not gonna name, name, drop any, um, Facebook. Um, not gonna name drop here cause that would be inappropriate, um, for future sponsors. But, um, the idea of so much of the, the, the hyper surveillance that we're all just accustomed to. Makes it very, very challenging. And then the very real concerns in this world of cyber.
Um, Crime and the high level espionage. Um, all of you know, when I think of money and money laundering and anti-money laundering, uh, know your customer rules. It just is what it is. And this technology is innovating and dis. Uh, disrupting spaces that are already heavily regulated. We start with finances and, and go to other spaces, but I always bring it back in my own teaching, um, and working with my own students, both at, at the law school and also at Advantage Evans Academy.
If I hand you a $10 bill, I hand you a $10 bill. There's no record of that. The, the easiest way to know something about a person is to know how their money moves. . Yep. Right. Don't talk to their family, don't talk to their friends. Look at their bank account. Mm-hmm. and the privacy around that. Um, the, the countervailing issues.
And, and I've turned the mic back over to you for your, your thoughts, closing thoughts on this topic. And I have one last thing to ask you about. Um, but just how do we right size the conversation by at least acknowledging the dangers in the world mm-hmm. , but offsetting that with the importance of.
Financial and other types of
Gabrielle Hibbert: privacy. Yeah. I, I wanna go back to something that I think is crucial to understanding why a lot of Americans don't think about privacy, and I think it does have to do something with privilege. Mm-hmm. , and we don't tease that out enough there. is this prevailing notion that, Well, I have nothing to hide.
You can go through my statements if you want. Right? I, I get that a lot. That people tend to not recognize that as a privilege, right? Because there are tons of communities here in the US that don't have the privilege of moving through space, uh, with little regard to. Hyper surveillance. Mm-hmm. . And with that, I think that that's a cultural reason why there haven't been more conversations around privacy and web three.
And that is one of the levers. Creates this kind of stagnation around privacy, uh, legislation. Although I will say, I would be remiss if I did not mention the American Data Privacy and Protection Act that is being worked on as we speak, which is a really great first step, but it's still not where we should be in the year 2022.
Right. So, in order to get to a space where we can have accountability for people that, to engage in money laundering and, uh, the financial crimes of the space, we need to help be the least privileged first, because that's kind of one of the, the, the first rules. Policy and, uh, community building is you have to help the least privilege first.
That's, that's just it. Uh, that's how you're going to get momentum and get more forward moving measures that can benefit all people. But that's an approach that we at least I have not seen. Mm-hmm. as a fleet.
Tonya Evans: Very well said. When you think about all the work that we have to do to create this utopia, , this decentralized utopia, um, anything you mentioned one just now, but pieces of legislation working their way through now that you think listeners should keep an ear and an eye out for, uh, things that you're encouraged about.
What should be on folks' radar. Uh, when we think about legislation in this area,
Gabrielle Hibbert: yeah. I am fascinated by the American Data Privacy and Protection Act. I think that that is pro probably one of the biggest pieces of legislation that I have got my eyes and ears tuned into, and I think for anyone who is interested.
What that will, will look like in the future. I highly recommend looking at that. Um, and in addition to that, I would also, I kind of like to give the advice of looking at what's happening in your state. Mm. What's happening locally, because I think even then it's still very fractured as to what's happening at the state level versus what's happening at the federal level.
Uh, in my. I was born and raised in Virginia. So what's happening in Virginia is very interesting to me. Uh, there are a lot of, I would say more crypto forward, uh, policy makers in Virginia than interesting in other areas. And seeing what's being moved forward there is fascinating. Uh, , it's, it's, it's, uh, really interesting to.
Which states will have the capacity to formulate various regulatory sandboxes around web three and crypto and blockchain. Mm-hmm. and those, which, that may not have the capacity to
Tonya Evans: do that. I think that's great and it's a great reminder. So much of my focus, um, over several episodes has been at the federal level, but seeing that all
Gabrielle Hibbert: politics.
Or local . Yes.
Tonya Evans: Particularly in this season. And this is actually a really great time as folks are starting to consider, um, Um, how to vote as, as November. Mm-hmm. , uh, at, during our conversation here, we're talking in October of 2022. Uh, so elections are right around the corner. This is a great time if you've never taken a moment to see what's going on in your uh, area.
We have some very exciting things going on in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well too, and so I think. Link, um, that particular, uh, episode in these show notes as well as, uh, some of the information that you've talked about, uh, as well our time flew. Uh, very much enjoyed this conversation and I'm quite sure that that listeners, um, did and will continue as well.
Um, in fact, tell listeners how they can learn more about you, the work that the council is doing, uh, as well.
Gabrielle Hibbert: For books that want to stay engaged with the Decent Place Feature Council, we just relaunched our website. You can follow our updates, what we're writing about, any events that are in the area. Uh, it's at decentralized feature council uh.org.
And happy to link that in terms of, uh, me personally, I don't have social media, but you ,
Tonya Evans: you're a privacy nerd, so I totally get that. It's too late for me again, so save yourself. That's amazing.
Gabrielle Hibbert: Uh, so I, I usually, I do have a public, uh, LinkedIn, uh, that people can contact me through. Mm-hmm. . And that's at Gabrielle.
Hi. But beyond that, I .
Tonya Evans: You gotta know me to know me, and you gotta know me, . I love it. That is the best advice that folks can take away. Um, you gotta know me to know me, and someday we'll be represented by awesome tokens and web addresses and you won't have to know a thing about me. Yes. And it'll be a happier place, at least for me.
Um, and then I could take off my 10 foil hat and come outside, cuz you know, I hear it's nice
Gabrielle Hibbert: outside. All right,
Tonya Evans: Gabrielle Hibbard, it's been an absolute pleasure. I'm so happy that we're connected and there's so much synergy in the work that we're doing and our, our interests. So we will definitely stay in touch and, and thank you for now being a family member to Tech.
Gabrielle Hibbert: I. Yes. Thank you so much. Uh, I thoroughly enjoyed their conversation. I, I could talk for another two hours, .
Tonya Evans: Awesome. All right. Well, I'm gonna have to like, have a, an after show. It'll be like bravo. We'll have an after show. All
Gabrielle Hibbert: right. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Tonya Evans: Thank you so much for listening to the Tech Intersect podcast.
I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you love it, please tell the world. If not, go ahead and tell me, and in either case, drop a comment or ping me on social media at IP Prof Evans with a hashtag tech intersect. And finally, a quick reminder on digital safety. There are a lot of scammers out there impersonating me and.
And I need your help now hear this, and remember, I will never slide into your dms to say peace and blessings or, hey, and I will never reach out to solicit your time or your money on social media like ever. I'm not a traitor. I am an educator and an attorney licensed in four states. Thank you very much.
I'm here to inform, inspire, and empower No cap, and definitely no Forex. So be careful. Make good choices. And remember, I developed an entire free masterclass about the topic of digital safety in the crypto space. So check out secure your crypto bag.com for more information. That's secure your crypto bag.com.
All right, that's all for this episode. Until next time. Continue to shine.