Where Do The Presidential Candidates Stand On Tech?

By
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Aliza VigdermanGabe TurnerChief Editor
Last Updated on Jun 22, 2020

The 2020 presidential election is coming up and issues surrounding technology have taken center stage. Whether it’s a discussion of breaking up Amazon and Google to protecting our elections from cyber attacks, with new technology comes unforeseen issues that must be addressed by our politicians.

Unfortunately, with such a contentious election, it can be hard to keep up with various candidates’ opinions on topics like antitrust matters, data privacy laws as well as national cybersecurity. That’s why I’ve taken the liberty of researching each candidate’s voting history as well as public opinions on these important issues. I also discuss the presidents’ actual influence on tech, and how much campaign money each candidate has taken from large tech companies. They say knowledge is power, and that’s never been more true in this upcoming election, sure to go down in history no matter the result.

The Key Security Issues

For anyone paying attention to the upcoming 2020 presidential election, three major issues have been data privacy, tech monopolies, and cybersecurity. We’ll tell you what each candidate has said about these issues, and more importantly, what they’ve done to fix them.

Cyber Security

The 2016 presidential election was plagued with influence from Russian hackers. How will each candidate change election policy to prevent this from happening in the future? Cybersecurity also pertains to data privacy, as a ton of consumers’ data is online.

Data Privacy

In the past few years, the United States has seen a plethora of security breaches from large companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook, and more. How will each candidate respond to security breaches, and how will they prevent them from happening in the first place? Plus, we’ll outline any actions they’ve already taken in their careers to protect consumers’ privacy.

Tech Monopolies

Many people believe that large tech companies have become monopolies, limiting competition, and breaking anti-trust laws. How will each candidate regulate these companies, and do they need to be broken up?

Which Presidential Candidate Is the Most Comprehensive on Tech?

Rankings

  1. Bernie Sanders
  2. Amy Klobuchar
  3. Andrew Yang
  4. Cory Booker
  5. Tulsi Gabbard
  6. Elizabeth Warren
  7. Michael Bennet
  8. Tom Steyer
  9. John Delaney
  10. Pete Buttigieg
  11. Donald Trump
  12. Joe Biden*
  13. Michael Bloomberg*
  14. Marianne Williamson*
  15. Deval Patrick*

*These candidates haven’t done or said much about data privacy, tech monopolies, and cybersecurity.


Most Comprehensive Presidential Candidates on Tech
CybersecurityData PrivacyTech Monopolies

Bernie Sanders is the most comprehensive candidate when it comes to cybersecurity, data privacy, and tech monopolies. He has been outspoken against large tech companies, criticizing their monopolistic power and use of customer data, a hot-button issue affecting millions of Americans. “My Internet privacy policy is simple: Our information belongs to us, not corporations like Comcast and Verizon. Comcast and Verizon should not be able to track their customers and sell their personal information without the customers’ permission. This is not a radical idea. This is just common sense,” Sanders wrote on his Facebook page.

Next, the most comprehensive candidates when it comes to technology are Amy Klobchar, Andrew Yang, Cory Booker, and Tulsi Gabbard. All Democratic candidates, they all support paper ballots, more cybersecurity to guard against cyberattacks from foreign countries, and more regulation of tech companies in terms of antitrust legislation and data protection. However, Yang is the only candidate of the four to espouse a system in which people would own and be compensated for their data. Moreover, he’s the only candidate that has said that if companies profit off of customer data, the customer should get a cut.

While Elizabeth Warren has dealt with many security breaches in her career as Senator and been outspoken about tech monopolies, she hasn’t addressed cyber attacks from foreign nations, making her fall in the rankings. The next candidate that’s garnered the most attention in this election is Pete Buttigieg, who supports a policy like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation to protect consumer data.

He’s also spoken about the outsize influence of large tech companies and their monopolistic power, despite the fact that the Washington Post called him a Silicon Valley darling” for his support from people working in tech.

Donald Trump, our current President, has indicted countries like China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea for their cyber attacks. However, he wavers when it comes to Russia, which was involved in the 2016 election that made him president. While he has discussed the creation of federal online privacy laws, none have been established. In contrast, he signed a bill that allows Internet Service Providers to sell user data, rolling back Obama’s online privacy laws. Trump also supports breaking up large tech monopolies, which he believes the United States can benefit from financially.

Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Marianne Williamson, and Deval Patrick have said little to nothing about tech issues like monopolies, privacy, and cybersecurity.

Influence on Tech Industry

President’s Influence on Tech

Now that we know exactly how each candidate feels on different issues about technology, I wanted to know how much influence the president actually has in this space. To find out, I talked to David Reischer, attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com. Reischer said,

“The U.S. Department of Justice at the direction of the President can make sure that all laws are enforced as pertains to tech monopolies, cyber security and consumer data privacy.”

The president can also make an executive order if something is vital to national security, according to an article from the Washington University Law Review. This could affect technology if a foreign power is cyber attacking our national information grid, for example.

Federal Technology Laws

So what laws must the President uphold, anyway? The technological area of commerce is regulated by three main federal acts, Reischer said, including:

  • Sherman Antitrust Act: Passed in 1890, this act regulates interstate commerce in order to create unrestrained trade and commerce between states and nations. If there is a trust, individuals and companies have the right to sue for triple damages. While this all sounds well and good, the words “trust” and “monopoly” weren’t strictly defined, leaving much room for interpretation.
  • Clayton Act: This act prevents tying contracts, anti-competitive mergers, and acquisitions as well as “interlocking directorates”. The FTC has the power to prevent discriminatory pricing and product promotion, according to this act. The Clayton Act strengthened the Sherman Antitrust Act, which failed to regulate large corporations effectively. It also declared labor unions, boycotts, and strikes legal under federal law, a win for workers everywhere in the United States.
  • Federal Trade Commission Act: This act made the antitrust laws in place more specific, preventing unfair and deceptive acts/ practices surrounding commerce, stipulating monetary redress to customers, and making reports and legislative recommends publicly available.

A recent bill called the Cybersecurity Disclosure Act of 2019, introduced last March, would require publicly traded companies to include Securities and Exchange Commission disclosures to investors. This would let investors know if the company has a cybersecurity expert on their Board of Directors or no

State Technology Laws

Very few state laws exist that regard individuals’ right to privacy, Reischer continued. The one exception is the California Consumer Privacy Act, a recently passed a bill that will go into effect in early 2020. This act will give consumers the right to:

  1. Get a report of all the data a business collects on them. This report would be bi-annual and free.
  2. Opt-out of their data being sold to third parties
  3. Sue companies who collected data that was stolen or obtained through a security breach, particularly if the company was careless or negligent about protecting customer data
  4. Delete data they have posted
  5. Avoid discrimination if they don’t want their data to be used
  6. Get informed on what categories of data are going to be collected beforehand, as well as be informed of any changes as they happen
  7. Opt-in before sales of children’s information
  8. Know categories of third parties with whom data is shared
  9. Know categories of sources of information from where data was acquired
  10. Know business/ commercial purposes of collecting data.

Consumer lawsuits for data breaches or enforcement by California’s Attorney General would result in a $2,500 fee per violation.

While Europe passed the General Data Protection Regulation in 2016, the United States has yet to enact federal laws on data protection. Reischer said,

“It is inevitable in my opinion, that eventually a similar federal law will come to regulate how big businesses protect personal data and hopefully there will be a greater protection of an individual’s right to privacy in the near future.”

Tech Companies’ Campaign Financing by Candidate

Presidential Campaign Financing

Campaign financing has been another hot-button issue in this primary election. Bernie Sanders in particular has spoken out against large corporate interests. Despite an average donation of only $18, his campaign had the largest fundraising quarter of any Democratic candidate this year. But shockingly, large tech companies have donated to Sanders the most out of any candidate with a whopping $412,765 in total from Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple. That’s about 22 times more than those companies gave to our current President Donald Trump.

Looking at it from the companies’ perspective, Google has donated the most money so far at about $850,000, over twice as much as the second-in-place Amazon. While Amazon and Apple gave the most to Sanders, Google gave the most money to Elizabeth Warren, while Facebook gave the most money to Buttigieg. This information is taken from the Center for Responsive Politics and is being updated as the campaign continues.

Recap

It’s no question that the 2020 presidential primary election will be interesting, with so many Democratic candidates running and the incumbent President Trump. As tech issues are thrust into the spotlight, we’ll continue to keep tabs on each candidates’ words, and more importantly, their actions.

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