As an active lobbyist and member-driven non-profit that acts on behalf of the Internet community, i2Coalition tells the story of how the Internet works on behalf of those that create and sustain it. To understand how the coalition is achieving this mission, Ilissa Miller, CEO and Founder of iMiller Public Relations, President of NEDAS and Co-Founder of the Independent Data Center Alliance, sat down with Christian Dawson, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the i2Coalition

At its core, the association seeks to educate legislators and regulators to help form the future of the industry and ensure its benefits for all involved. This action spans a plethora of what Dawson calls “Internet freedom-related issues.” For example, web hosting providers are liable for the content that users are producing on their networks, and subsequently, they are in need of intermediary liability protections that remove the strain of monitoring every single thing that goes in and out of the network. So in this case, the job of the i2Coalition is to explain to legislators why preserving these protections is so important and help them understand how they function to preserve the Internet as a whole. 

To accomplish this, the i2Coalition has formed a number of Working Groups, the topics of which range from public policy to diversity and inclusion to industry best practices. Dawson notes that the i2Coalition’s biggest and most popular working group is the public policy group, which focuses on important issues like intermediary liability and net neutrality, along with issues surrounding security and privacy online. 

Recently, however, the coalition has unveiled its newest working group: the VPN Trust Initiative (VTI). This initiative is a collaborative alliance comprised of leading VPN providers, and it’s driven by the goal of improving digital safety for consumers by building understanding, strengthening trust and mitigating risk for VPN users.

Why the need for a VPN-focused working group? To answer this, Dawson starts by affirming the idea that not all VPNs are created equal. He adds, “VPNs, like most of our internet ecosystem, are a diverse ecosystem; a lot of companies behave in different ways.” 

Currently, there isn’t much of a foundation for basic information and understanding about how things operate in the VPN industry. As is common with many important facets of life, this misunderstanding can, if left unchecked, lead to some unforeseen consequences. Dawson recalls that some legislators had gone so far as to call out VPNs as a nefarious technology, even though it was clear to those who understood virtual private networks that it was not the technology itself that was the issue, it was the way some were using it. In the case of VPNs, the consequences of this lack of insight could lead to unnecessary censorship, loss of important capabilities for VPN providers and even the possibility of infringements on rights for users. 

So, the i2Coalition began engaging with VPN providers in the market on issues such as encryption and online privacy, and the VPN businesses responded by delving deeper into specific tasks they wanted to work on collectively. Together, these companies are utilizing the working group to guide the discourse on this technology and showcase the differences between beneficial VPN use cases and use cases that may not be as trustable. 

Now, the VPN Trust Initiative is working toward creating and supporting principles that shape the overarching market and guide the future of this technology’s implementation. Currently, the founding members, including ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Golden Frog, Surfshark and NetProtect, are building their numbers and searching for new ways to enhance VPNs and champion positive change across the world of technology. 

To view the entirety of this Q&A session, please click here

To learn more about the VPN Trust Initiative, please click here