Privacy 15 October 2014

Farewell Lucy Lynch

By Robin WiltonDirector, Internet Trust

A note from Olaf Kolkman, Chief Internet Technology Officer:

From our short collaboration at ISOC and earlier interactions I came to know Lucy as one of those persons who understands the Internet. 

She understands its technical fabric and understand its role as a tool for social economic change, to such an extent that one could say ‘she breathes the Internet’. Not only does she have that deeply principled understanding she also ‘gets her hands dirty’, something I’ve seen in the IETF prior to joining ISOC: Lucy could always be found in the NOC, the place where folk are not afraid to enable the router, or sudo the shell.

Our joint time at ISOC was much too short for me to do her honor. Robin, one of her close colleagues, does a much better job:


I first met Lucy Lynch in the rather surreal context of a Kantara Initiative conference, at a Las Vegas casino hotel in 2009. It soon became clear to me that she had an exceptional grasp of questions I was wrestling with at the time: what she described as the “wicked problems” of trust, identity and privacy. At the time, I had little idea of what the Internet Society was or did, but over the following couple of years, the more I found out, the more interested I became. I finally got the opportunity to join Lucy’s Trust and Identity (TID) team in 2012, and I have not regretted a single moment.

Lucy says that, when the ISOC Board sat down to scope TID’s work in 2006, they envisaged a 7-10 year timescale to fix the security and privacy issues that cluster under the general heading of online trust and identity. She reckons they were optimistic… and certainly, the privacy and regulatory landscape today looks fundamentally different from what we thought lay ahead of us, back in 2006. I don’t think anyone would try to argue that the work has lost its relevance or its importance. Lucy has a frankly scary ability to combine the cross-disciplinary, strategic view with a close focus on technical detail, and a partnership approach that reaches well beyond ISOC. But as a result, ISOC’s work in this area leads thought, and influences deployment, world wide. Few Internet users are aware of how much Lucy has contributed to their online wellbeing, privacy and security.

Let me give an example: I have been talking, for several years, about the importance of “personas” in managing online privacy; being sure that you can disclose the right information about yourself in the right context. That forms part of ISOC’s core definition of privacy. But that’s not the leading edge. The leading edge is that personas are modal: is your data self-asserted or proofed by a third party; is it ephemeral or persistent; is it discrete or ubiquitous; is it anonymous or well-known; is it bundled or atomised? Few people are even conscious of these factors yet, but Lucy’s already out there. As a team member, that makes my work exciting and fulfilling. On the other hand, you have to work hard to keep up!

All this is pretty much what you would expect from a senior ISOC staff member; technical mastery and an ability to influence the big picture… that’s what we do, and it’s what makes ISOC such a great community to be part of.

That’s why, far from people running away from ISOC to join the circus, ISOC is enough to attract people like Lucy to run away from (managing) the circus and come and work here. But out of hours, Lucy is a fascinating source of conversation about Cascadian Pinot Noir, the merits of different Bach performers, good places to eat in most places you might end up visiting, and hotels that are a welcome relief from the cookie-cutter corporate franchise. There’s also a mischievous streak in Lucy, which I can only attribute to her fascination with the wackier fringes of children’s literature.

What else can I say? Only that it has been a delight and a privilege to work with a polymath, committed to the principles ISOC stands for, and determined to change the trust and identity world for the better. Lucy, thank you  –  I hope we can live up to the standard you’ve set. 

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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