vacy advocates, who say it didn’t go far enough. Ryan believes the country should also look to Europe, which in 2016 passed its General Data Protection Regulations, privacy rules that empower consumers to control their own data.
In fundraising, Ryan is a front runner with $1.3 million raised, closely tailing attorney Antonio Delgado and corporate executive Brian Flynn, according to federal election filings.
Some of those contributions have raised eyebrows. Ryan is supported by veterans groups and has solicited much of his campaign cash from former colleagues at data analytics firms who may stand to gain from fewer controls on the industry. He has received about $35,000 in campaign donations from employees of Palantir Technologies and $15,975 from members of Dataminr, according analysis from Open Secrets.
Ryan says the contributors are tech industry friends who share his views on consumer privacy, noting that companies he has worked for turn down projects that conflict with their commitment to civil liberties.
Because the industry is currently unregulated, he said, “people approach you all the time and you have to weigh it and make hard decisions.”
His first-hand experience running up against the ethical boundaries of the industry make him uniquely qualified to serve in Congress, he said.
“We are very far behind in defining privacy laws and I think one of my strengths in Congress is knowing where to draw that ethical line,” Ryan said.
At least one local civic group has endorsed Ryan — along with former Gov. Andrew Cuomo staffer Gareth Rhodes — because of his expertise in the technology sector, as well as his “down to earth demeanor.”
“He would curtail the ability of private companies to collect personal data,” Oblong Valley Indivisible wrote in its endorsement. “He takes the position that people should control their own data. He is also a supporter of internet neutrality.”
Privacy advocates, alarmed by the rising inf luence of the advertising lobby in Washington, D.C., don’t all see it that way.
“You can make a credible case that a certain amount of data collection is necessary abroad for national security purposes and if there is a court order, for domestic purposes, but anyone who works in the data industry doesn’t have the average consumer in mind,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.
Incidentally, the two companies Ryan co-founded, Praescient Analytics and Second Front Systems, focus on national security and cyber security, using data intelligence to protect troops from ISIS and American citizens from foreign cyber attacks. At the same time, Ryan says he strongly opposes the 2001 Patriot Act, which he says enabled law enforcement to infringe on civil liberties.
Ryan’s other policy planks are similar if slightly more moderate than the six other Democratic contenders vying for the congressional seat, a group that includes agricultural economist Erin Collier, attorney David Clegg and former U.S. diplomat Jeff Beals. Expanding environmental protections, defending immigrant rights, moving the country toward universal health care and tackling the opioid epidemic are among Ryan’s priorities.
He also hopes to help shift the “tone and tenor” of the conversation in Washington.
“What we’ve lost in our politics is asking what’s in the greater public good and who can articulate and sell those policies in an authentic way,” Ryan said.