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Fanny Hidvégi


Europe policy director, Access Now

VISIONARY No. 5

Since taking charge of Access Now in 2016, Fanny Hidvegi has honed the NGO into one of the most effective digital rights outfits in town. Despite being a relative newcomer — Access Now was founded in 2009 — the advocacy group enjoys the same kind of access as its more storied civil society brethren. Indeed, its relative youth has perhaps been to its advantage: As tech behemoths have come to dominate the digital policymaking narrative in Brussels, the startup NGO with roots on the U.S. West Coast has perhaps been well-placed to do battle with companies that promise to “move fast and break things.”

Hidvégi has done much to bring focus to Access Now’s European work, leading a team that includes Estelle Massé, Daniel Leufer and Eliska Pirkova, who have become go-to experts in their respective areas of data policy, AI and freedom of expression, respectively. As a team of Europeans in an organization spanning five continents, the NGO can bring both local and global perspectives to its work, which is difficult to match. An ongoing tussle over privacy and surveillance between Washington and Brussels is a good example. With feet on the ground in both capitals, the organization became a key pressure group for data rights during negotiations to reinstate an EU-U.S. data pact after European judges struck down a predecessor agreement because of fears over American snooping.

As a Hungarian and a board member of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, Hidvégi is also well-placed to keep an eye on Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government, and will surely become a key voice as the Pegasus spyware scandal spreads from Budapest across the 27-member bloc.

What to watch out for this year: As the EU rolls out a plethora of new digital rulebooks, expect Access Now to be at the vanguard of ensuring citizens’ rights are upheld.

What’s their superpower: Focusing on her goal of turning a young NGO into one of Brussels’ fiercest pressure groups.

Influence score: 19/30

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