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Politicians Talk Tech: Loz Kaye, Leader of Pirate Party UK

Are parliamentarians behind the times or tech savvy representatives? We chat to global politicians to discover how they view and use tech...

lozcanalbridge Name: Loz Kaye

 Role: Leader

 Party: Pirate Party UK



Are Governments, political parties, and politicians in general embracing technology enough and in the right ways?

Governments do know technology is important now, particularly economically. However, there are simply not enough politicians that 'get' tech. They are all too easily swayed by the latest scare headline from a tabloid or self-serving lobbyists. Recent moves to default web blocking in Britain were a case in point, with government wilfully ignoring expert advice.

The UK has seen a move to recognising the importance of open data which is positive. But that's just the starting point, the important thing with data is what you do with it.

Why did you join the Pirate Party, and do you think mainstream parties have sat up and taken notice of what technology & internet-centric parties likes yours are doing?

Democracy is fundamentally broken in the UK, with alienation and falling turnouts. The Pirate Party struck me as the only place I felt at home, looking forward rather than back.

More than anything, we've made mainstream parties see that Internet and tech issues are at the core of 21st century politics. It's becoming increasingly poisonous to be seen as an “anti-Internet” politician.

Were you happy with the results of this year’s EU elections even though the Pirate Party lost two seats, and what are the goals of the party in this parliamentary term?

We were of course sad to lose Christian and Amelia, who gained quite a bit of respect in the European Parliament. However Julia Reda is there to carry on the work. The upcoming priorities are making sure the agreements on net neutrality stick, further work on copyright reform and defeating TTIP in its current form.

Are you in favour of e-Voting in elections?

This might surprise you but no. We're the ones who know how badly wrong this could go.

Should internet access be a human right?

It should be considered a crucial piece of infrastructure, and access to it should be seen in the same way as access to power. Internet access is now key to fundamental rights in the UK such as being able to obtain housing, education and social support, now that Universal Credit is to be digital by default.

What are your views on the NSA/GCHQ revelations over internet monitoring?

The extent of mass surveillance is truly frightening, and it turns us all from citizens in to suspects. Worst of all, we were given the illusion that we had democratic choice over this. Nick Clegg promised no “Snooper's Charter”. Well that promise has turned out to be meaningless, like so many other LibDem pledges.

Are you concerned about the power/activities of internet groups such as Anonymous?

I'm concerned that people feel so marginalised that they need to take direct action. In the Pirate Party we have always tried to offer a democratic route. But we have always been happy to stand alongside people who identify as Anonymous, for example in organising demonstrations against ACTA.

Do tech firms have too much influence in politics?

No, it's old business money and the inability of the unions to see beyond the Labour party which has too much influence on the big UK parties.

Do you think monopolies in the technology scene (e.g. Search Engines) are hurting the growth of smaller firms?

Absolutely, we would much rather a more diverse SME scene which would be better for business and society. In particular the weight that BT has, which resulted in them hoovering up all the government broadband subsidies is hampering growth and innovation.

How tech savvy would you say you are?

Tech is an integral part of my life now. That said I am not from a tech background at all, issues like digital inclusion, mass surveillance and site blocking affect everyone now, not just a narrow elite. On tech savviness I bow to my fellow National Executive colleagues like Sam Clark who can literally dig fibre to your home for you!

Do you use Social networking for either your work or personal life?

Social media is a key part of how we get our message out there. Personally I am an avid Twitterer, but I like the more in depth discussion possible you can get doing a Reddit AMA.

What devices do you use to access the internet/conduct work?

I have an encrypted Lenovo Thinkpad running Debian for party work. They're not pretty, but you can drop them and they even have holes to let coffee spillage out. I have an Android phone.

For party work we use the applications Mumble for meetings, our own version of Etherpad called Piratepad for press releases, collaborative documents and coordinating tasks. My email is PGP signed and we use encryption where necessary.

Are you aware of Bitcoins?

Not to be too hipster about it, but Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge has been talking about Bitcoins way before it was cool. For us, Bitcoins formed a crucial part of the Euro election fundraising this year.

Do you know how to code?

One thing that changed my life and got me interested in computing in a new way was going on an HTML and CSS course run by the Danish Musicians' Union (yes really). So I'm hardly coder genius, but I have had that glorious “Aha” moment when you see the deeper working of computing, rather than just a passive consumer.

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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