Nick Ashton-Hart

Nick Ashton-Hart

Associate Fellow, Geneva Centre for Security Policy
Joined on November 8, 2013
Total Post Views: 97,143


Nick has just concluded several years as the senior full-time resident representative for the technology sector to the UN, its member-states, and the international organisations in Geneva. He has been an active part of multilateral policy development since in 1992 with the sustainable development agenda for the world’s cities (HABITAT II), active in the Geneva community for 14 years and a resident of it for the past eight. He’s currently considering his next challenge.

He came to international policy from a private-sector career in both the entertainment and ICT sectors. In the music industry he managed some of the world’s most successful and influential artists including the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown. In the tech sector he went from a Systems Administrator to CIO/CTO in five years and has broad hands-on technology experience.

Prior to his full-time job with the Internet & Digital Ecosystem Alliance he was Geneva Representative of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), Director for At-Large and Senior Director for Participation and Engagement with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Inc. (ICANN) and Executive Director of the International Music Managers Forum (IMMF), the international non-governmental organisation representing the interests of music managers and their clients.

Current Positions and Advisory Roles:
<li>Guest Poster, Council on Foreign Relations’ Net Politics</li>
<li>Member, e15Initiative Trade and Innovation Expert Group</li>
<li>Member, Evian Group@IMD Trade Task Force</li>
<li>Member, Board of Directors, MetaBrainz Foundation, the corporate home of MusicBrainz</li>
He can be found on Twitter @nashtonhart and Google+ at

Photo credit: Veni Markovski

Except where otherwise noted, all postings by Nick Ashton-Hart on CircleID are licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Featured Blogs


Internet public policy -- and the technical ecosystem -- is at a crossroads and the choice of CEO that ICANN's board makes now is probably the most important such choice it has ever made. Since I work in Internet policy across the Geneva institutions where more than 50% of all international Internet-related policy meetings take place, and have worked at ICANN in senior positions in the past, I thought I would suggest some qualities the next CEO should have. more

Are the TISA Trade Talks a Threat to Net Neutrality, Data Protection, or Privacy?

On December 17th a US proposal for online commerce in a major trade negotiation, the Trade in Services Agreement ("TISA") leaked. A flurry of press releases and opinion pieces claim that TISA is a threat to the Internet. The headlines are lurid: "TISA leak: EU Data Protection and Net Neutrality Threatened" and "Leaked TISA text exposes US threat to privacy, civil rights"... Because I've spent years in Geneva regularly meeting with and advising negotiators on the networked economy I have a very different perspective. more

Europe and Data Protection: We Need a Real Debate - Exactly What We Don’t Have Now

Europe is at the forefront of the global debate about data protection and privacy. Unfortunately that debate is characterised more by hyberbole and scaremongering than real discussion. Europeans deserve better -- and so does the world, who rightly see Europe as a leader on this subject. The new Commission has a chance to truly lead in partnership with governments, like Brazil, that agree with us. more

It’s Time to Talk Solutions on Mass Surveillance

The public discussion of surveillance one year on from the Snowden revelations remains a search for the biggest sinner. New stories 'outing' countries and companies are great transparency and essential for healthy societies but they have a side effect that isn't so benign: they create an evergreen source of new justifications for security services to demand more money for a surveillance and counter-surveillance arms race. more

Internet Governance: What Does It Mean, Anyway?

Ask anyone involved in Internet policy what "Internet Governance" means and you're likely to get a different answer, despite the fact that a decade ago, after torturous negotiations, the international community agreed on a working definition for the term (if a vague one). The lack of clarity has resulted in a policy space that appears to cover more and more subjects, with less and less agreement the more it spreads. In discussions recently on the /1net email list, I've seen proposals for an 'Internet Governance Roadmap' that includes delivering e-health initiatives, solving mass surveillance, and adopting new measures for taxation of Internet commerce - to name just a few. more

The Economy, Not Surveillance or Weapons Systems, Is the Real Source of National Security

The worldwide public discussion about surveillance produced by the Snowden revelations has so far largely missed a major strategic fault with national security arguments for continued mass surveillance: that economic damage to the technology sector but more fundamentally to the wider economy is a likely result. This damage is also likely to undermine security far more than any potential gains from continuing as we are - or continuing but with some transparency or narrowing that leaves the existing industrial scale surveillance system largely unchecked. more

Learning to Love the WTO: How Trade Policy Can Save Open Internet - and Bridge the Digital Divide

From the dawn of the mainstream commercial Internet in the late 1990s until quite recently, the world trade and Internet communities have been almost entirely disconnected from one another. This isn't surprising, given that trade policy historically follows technological developments with a considerable 'lag.' As the senior-most 'permanent representative' on the ground in Geneva from the for-profit tech sector, a big part of my job is to try and translate the Internet for the Diplomatic Corps across many different policy subjects. more

We Have a Paradigm for Surveillance That’s Broken, Fit Only for the Analogue Past

As each day brings new revelations about surveillance online, we are starting to see increasing activity in national legislatures intended either to establish more control over what the security services can do to their nationals (in countries like the US), or to limit access by foreign secret services to the personal information of their citizens (countries like Brazil). Unfortunately, neither of these approaches address the underlying problem: we have a paradigm for surveillance that's fit for the analogue past, not the digital present, let alone the future. more