This week I had the honor and pleasure of meeting with several US senators, congressmen, and their staff to talk about legislation that affects the future of IT in hugely important ways. I’m part of the Association for Competitive Technology (actonline.org), and for the second year in a row I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in their annual “fly-in,” which gathers leading technologists (I have no idea how I made the list!) from around the US for sit-downs with Congress and the Senate to help influence laws that affect the technology arena. ACT focuses exclusively on serving the needs and interests of small businesses in the technology space. This year was a blast! I had fun and learned a lot.

I’m normally smart enough to stay out of politics when writing this column, but I figure it’s sort of safe when I’m simply making you aware of the fact that laws do indeed shape our technical lives and professions in many ways. ACT is the only lobby group that’s focused on the needs and concerns of small business in the technology space. I certainly like big companies (such as the one that builds the database we all know and love!), but there’s value in ensuring that the government knows the needs of small businesses as well. In fact, big companies care about this voice also, which is why large companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, and eBay all help fund ACT.

“Laws are like sausages; it is better not to see them being made.”—Otto von Bismarck

Legislation isn’t as tasty as sausage, but there’s much wisdom in this quote. Alas, laws do happen, whether or not the process is pretty.

One of the hot topics on Capitol Hill these days revolves around data privacy standards. Companies such as Facebook and Google are taking heat around the world from countries that have concerns over whether or not these companies might have overstepped their bounds with respect to our data and privacy. Cell phone location tracking is a hot topic as well. If you don’t think topics like this affect you, think again. We live in a digital age. More and more, legislation has an impact on the way we manage data—which I suspect would be a topic of immense interest to any and all data professionals. Laws are being made regarding cloud computing, intellectual property, and a host of other topics that affect the lives of technologists.

Many of you work for large companies. But small businesses provide the vast majority of jobs in the US, so I suspect that most US-based readers of this column have interests aligned with the needs of small businesses.

I don’t intend to advocate for any particular position on what laws should or shouldn’t be passed with respect to topics such as data privacy. I have opinions, but I don’t have space here to explore them, and I don’t speak for ACT. I simply want to encourage you to educate yourself about legislation that affects your profession. I don’t get any money from ACT. I don’t get a benefit if you join. But I do believe that joining ACT is a great way to stay abreast of the technology-related legislation and politics that affect our lives. There’s no cost to become a member of ACT. Feel free to check out their website at actonline.org. You have a voice—let it be heard.