Trump, Clinton Prioritize Cybersecurity, Tech Issues

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At last week’s presidential debate, Donald Trump famously expressed concern about “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds” hacking into computers. In a speech Monday in Virginia, he sought to clarify his views on cybersecurity, saying it would be an “immediate and top priority,” and that a Trump administration would call on the Department of Justice to create a task force “to crush this still-developing area of crime.”

The speech was a rare foray into technology policy for the Republican candidate. Where Hillary Clinton has filled a nearly 7,000-word briefing on hacking, net neutrality and other technology topics, Trump’s views have largely come across through tweets and cable-news soundbites.

The nation’s next president could help establish policies that affect how Silicon Valley operates and the speed at which innovative products become available to consumers. The president’s stance could also sway how foreign governments treat American tech companies abroad, and strike a balance between privacy and the government’s need for data. Here is how the two candidates match up:

Cybersecurity: Trump’s speech Monday contained few specifics beyond the creation of a task force. A team of military and civilian experts would also, he said, review the government’s systems and make them “as secure as modern technology permits.” Cybersecurity attacks from China, Russia and North Korea and non-state groups are among “our most critical national security concerns,” he said.

The speech went slightly beyond the debate, in which Trump said “the security aspect of cyber is very, very tough,” but that the U.S. should do better. Trump drew fire this summer from Clinton and national security experts for encouraging Russia to “find” 30,000 unreleased emails from Clinton. He has also resisted identifying Russia as the country that breached the Democratic National Committee’s emails, in contrast to many experts.

Clinton also plans to prioritize cybersecurity. In last week’s debate, she said the federal government under her command would take action in response to foreign hacking attacks. “We’re going to have to make it clear that we don’t want to use the kind of tools we have,” she said, adding: “But we will defend the citizens of this country.” She would enforce the use of security tools (like multifactor authentication), encourage government departments to consider “bug bounties,” in which the government pays hackers to show their systems’ vulnerabilities, and invest in emerging cybersecurity technologies.

Net neutrality: Clinton said in her briefing that she supports the principle that Internet service providers can’t charge publishers and app makers different amounts for delivering videos, apps and other media to consumers, often called net neutrality. She backs the FCC’s decision in 2015 to stop broadband carriers from slowing down the Internet for some sites while charging others for faster service. A federal appeals court’s backing of that decision, which came down in June, was cheered by people in the tech industry who rely on a speedy Internet to run their products.

“Hillary would defend these rules in court and continue to enforce them,” according to Clinton’s campaign website.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment. But registered Republican Roger Royse, who works in Menlo Park and hosted a forum with GOP candidates last year in Silicon Valley, said he thinks Trump would not support net neutrality. In 2014, Trump tweeted that net neutrality “will target conservative media.” While net neutrality doesn’t actually police content, Trump has said he aims to cut down the government’s regulation of businesses in general.

“His position is consistent with conservative and Republican ideology in that less regulation is better and there should really be good reasons before you let government start regulating something,” said Royse, who hasn’t decided whom he will vote for but is leaning toward Trump.

Other regulations: Trump has not specifically mentioned the tech sector in his job creation plan, but some analysts believe his emphasis on reduced regulation would be favorable toward technological advances like self-driving cars, an emerging field that faces questions from privacy advocates and on topics such as how insurance will be applied.

“Staying the course for (Trump) might actually be very supportive of the technology sector,” said Professor Steven Weber at UC Berkeley’s School of Information. “If he believes the tech sector is a source of economic growth, he ain’t going to kill the golden goose.”

Still, Trump has criticized tech companies, including Apple. After Apple refused to assist the FBI in getting data from an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters last year, Trump said Apple should help the government’s cause. Apple said in a court document that complying could set a “dangerous precedent for conscripting Apple and other technology companies to develop technology to do the government’s bidding in untold future criminal investigations.”

“Boycott Apple until such time until they give that information, I think that’s a great idea,” Trump said at a South Carolina event in February.

Clinton has walked a finer line, saying she supports creating a commission on data security and encryption that would be made up of people in the public safety and technology fields.

“Hillary rejects the false choice between privacy interests and keeping Americans safe,” according to her campaign briefing.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, co-hosted a fundraiser for Clinton in August and has also hosted a fundraiser for House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican. Cook has said that the government overreached in the Apple case, which was ultimately resolved when the FBI paid outside hackers to find a way into the shooter’s iPhone.

As a general rule, Clinton “definitely sees technology as a great tool, as a great tool kit to deal with economically and just making the government work better,” said Linda Moore, CEO of TechNet, a bipartisan organization that represents the tech industry. In an interview last month, she said that her group was eager to hear a technology agenda from Trump, but “we haven’t seen anything out like that yet.”

Free speech online: Clinton has also pushed for an open Internet abroad in countries like China and Russia that sometimes block access to the Web. Services like Twitter and Facebook are banned in China, for example.

Trying to keep the Internet open is “an ongoing struggle with more oppressive regimes around the world … who want to be able to shut it down at will (and) interfere with people’s freedom,” Clinton said at a San Francisco event in 2014. But she also wants to stop the Islamic State from continuing to use the Internet for recruiting, and she has urged social media companies to close terrorist-linked accounts.

“We have got to shut down their Internet presence, which is posing the principal threat to us,” Clinton said at a New Hampshire town hall last year.

Trump has also voiced concerns about people being recruited online by the Islamic State. In December, he said he would like to talk to Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, about possibly closing off parts of the Internet. (Gates is a Microsoft board member and adviser to CEO Satya Nadella, but lacking a day-to-day role at the company, it’s not clear how he would direct Microsoft’s Internet operations in the way Trump proposed, let alone affect the Internet more broadly.)

“I sure as hell don’t want people who want to kill us and kill our nation (to) use our Internet,” Trump said in a CNN Republican presidential debate.

But fundamentally, some analysts question whether Trump understands what tech is about (outside of using Twitter). The Republican candidate’s reference in the first presidential debate to “the cyber” and enthusiastic praise of his 10-year-old son’s computer abilities crystallized this for many.

“Trump, not surprisingly, appears to have no coherent policy and little understanding of the issues,” said John Simpson with the privacy advocate group Consumer Watchdog.

Wendy Lee is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @thewendylee

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