Ashkan Soltani is an independent researcher and technologist specializing on issues relating to privacy, security, and behavioral economics. His work draws attention to privacy problems online, demystifies technology for the non-technically inclined, and provides data-driven insights to help inform policy.
He’s previously served a brief stint as a Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and as the Chief Technologist for the Federal Trade Commission, advising the commission on its technology related policy as well as helping to create its new Office of Technology Research and Investigation. He also served at the FTC in 2010 as one of the first staff technologists in the Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, helping to lead investigations into major technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, HTC, and PulsePoint.
Ashkan was also recognized as part of the 2014 Pulitzer winning team for his contributions to the Washington Post’s coverage of National Security issues. He was also the primary technical consultant on the Wall Street Journal’s investigative series: “What They Know”, which was a finalist for 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting.
Ashkan lives in Washington, DC.
Personal Twitter account: @ashk4n
Ashkan has more than 20 years of experience as a consultant and researcher focused on technology, privacy, and behavioral economics. His work has informed policy debates on privacy and security and has been cited by several national media outlets.
Ashkan is a co-author of the Washington Post’s NSA series that was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, a 2014 Loeb Award, and a 2013 Polk Award for National Security Reporting. He was also a researcher for the 2009 Pulitzer-winning story, One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex, and the technical consultant for the Wall Street Journal’s What They Know series, which was a finalist for 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting and won the 2010 Loeb Award for “Online Enterprise”.
As part of his work to contribute data and technical insight to policy debates, Ashkan has co-authored several academic papers. His master’s thesis, KnowPrivacy, became the basis for the “What They Know” series and was followed by Flash Cookies and Privacy, and Flash Cookies and Privacy II (addendum here), and Behavioral Advertising: The Offer You Cannot Refuse. “Behavioral Advertising” won the 2014 Computers, Privacy & Data Protection Multidisciplinary Privacy Research Award. He also co-authored “Tiny Constables and the Cost of Surveillance: Making Cents Out of United States v. Jones,” an analysis of the dropping costs of surveillance which was published by the Yale Law Journal in 2014.
Ashkan has served as a technical expert to a number of consumer protection agencies, including the FTC and State Attorneys General. In 2015, he was appointed as the Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission where he helped establish the agency’s Office of Technology Research and Investigation. He has helped lead investigations into Google, Facebook, Twitter, HTC, and PulsePoint. In the past, he has served on the Technical Advisory Board for the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
He also organizes the famous Tech Policy Happy Hours in DC, NY, and SF. If you’d like to attend, just email.
I rely on Kristin Thomson to keep my organization up and running. Kristin has over twenty years of experience with small business management and nonprofit advocacy, learning everything from accounting, to grantwriting, to web design along the way. Kristin is a social researcher with an MA in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware, and frequently writes about the issues at the intersection of music, law, technology and policy. She is currently co-director of Future of Music Coalition’s Artist Revenue Streams project, and was a lead author of Pew Internet and American Life’s report on Arts Organizations and Digital Technologies.