Meet Josh Lee Kok Thong, FPF Asia Pacific’s Managing Director
The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) is thrilled to announce Josh Lee Kok Thong, FPF Asia Pacific’s new managing director. Lee is deeply passionate about the issues at the intersection of law, policy, and technology, and is a changemaker in the spheres of the law of tech, and the tech of law.
As a legal architect that hopes to re-shape relationships disrupted by technology, Josh will lead a team furthering FPF’s mission of advancing data protection best practices and the trusted development and use of emerging technologies in the region.
Learn more about Josh in the Q&A below.
- Tell us about yourself. How did you come to be at FPF as the new Managing Director of our Asia-Pacific office?
It all happened rather serendipitously. While pursuing my postgraduate law degree at Berkeley, I was asked to be interviewed for an article by the Singapore Global Network (a global networking community for Singaporeans set up by Singapore’s Economic Development Board). It wasn’t anything fancy–they had just wanted to feature Singaporeans in the Bay Area. After sharing the article on LinkedIn, Dr. Clarisse Girot (whom I had previously worked with while in the Singapore Government) reached out and put me in touch with FPF CEO Jules Polonetsky; after our conversation, Jules said, “actually, we’re looking to have you in as someone more senior.”
The next thing I knew, I was connected to senior members of the team in FPF, and FPF offered me this role–which I was delighted but also very humbled to receive. It also came at a time when another global tech company had also provided an offer. All things considered, joining FPF was the right choice, as it offered me the opportunity and chance to build something unique and shape it based on my vision.
TL, DR: I’m grateful for the connections and coincidences that came together that made this role possible, and I am excited to help the wonderful team at FPF take the office–and its mission–forward!
- How do you see the role of the FPF Asia-Pacific office in the essential debates in the region on protecting personal data and advancing principled data practices in support of emerging technologies?
I think the FPF Asia-Pacific office (or FPF APAC) will be able to play a key and essential role in these dialogues.
Regionally, I see three fundamental shifts impacting the emerging technology and data protection landscape—first, the demographic shift. Second, the technological shift. Third, the regulatory shift.
First, the sheer demographic gravity of the Asia-Pacific means that jurisdictions like China, India, Indonesia, and others – have not just the largest but also some of the youngest and fastest-growing populations globally.
With a young, highly digitally-savvy population that is more conscious and careful about how their information is being used and how technology impacts them, there will be a stronger impetus to implement or update data protection regimes across the region to adapt to the changing sensibilities of these constituents.
Second, there are many technological developments occurring in the region. China is a world leader in AI and blockchain technology. Jurisdictions like South Korea and Japan are investing heavily in the future of the Web and media. In Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, fintech is revolutionizing how financial services are provided. With COVID-19 still fresh in everyone’s minds, healthtech is also an area with rapid development and opportunities. These technological developments, all of which rely on vast amounts of data, mean that trust in the collection, use, processing, and transferring personal data is a critical need for regulators, industry, and civil society.
Third, regulators in the region are, one, increasingly aware of the benefits and risks of emerging technologies; two, increasingly concerned about striking a balance between data innovation and data protection and control; and three, increasingly confident of regulating in a unique way that works for them. This comes amidst a backdrop of increased geopolitical focus on Asia, greater industry competition, and heightened awareness of finding a balance between innovation and technological risk–all adding to greater regulatory uncertainty in data protection and technology regulation.
Therefore, there is a significant role for FPF– through its unique approach of listening to governments, industry, civil society, and academia–to help foster the connections and dialogues critical to building trust.
We also want to use our unique centrist position – of focusing not on what appears good or bad, but on what is objectively important – to help regulators make the most informed choices on why, how, and when to regulate data and technology. We, therefore, want to be the most effective conduit, convenor, and collaborator in the region in this space. In short, when one thinks of technology, data protection, and trust, we want FPF APAC to be top-of-mind in this region.
- What are your top three priorities as you take the helm of the FPF Asia-Pacific office?
To advance FPF’s mission, the APAC office will focus on three themes: continuity, construction, and visibility.
First, continuity. Unlike other places where transitions spell sudden shocks to how things are done, the FPF APAC office will continue many of its key projects already embarked upon. These include continuing the office’s tremendous work on the 14 jurisdictional reports on consent regimes and monthly privacy landscape calls, among others. We also want to emphasize our desire to build upon and nurture relationships already built with existing stakeholders, even as we also foster new ones.
Second, construction. FPF APAC will seek to construct a regional ecosystem of members, partners, and friends that is able to share perspectives, intelligence, and insights. After all, in a huge region with a multitude of views and stakeholders, it takes more than just two hands to clap. This collaborative network of partnerships is ultimately how we can be of value to our members and stakeholders, and further FPF’s mission and vision in the region.
Third, visibility. To ensure that FPF becomes and remains top-of-mind in policy and regulatory discussions in the region, we want to be a lighthouse amidst the constant changes and shifts in this space. FPF APAC will focus on being the trusted partner and advisor in understanding regulatory and technology developments as they come, and understand how to convey this information across in the most digestible way possible–so that important insights reach members and stakeholders in the right place, at the right time, and in the right way.
- What are you reading or what podcasts are you listening to these days in relation to data protection?
We, The Robots by Professor Simon Chesterman, a respected academic in Singapore, on how and what policymakers should think about when thinking of regulating AI.
Interested in learning more about FPF APAC and the APAC Council? Contact [email protected] to connect with the FPF Membership Team to learn more.