Technology issues haven’t dominated the US presidential campaign. But they’re there.
Security and privacy. The health of the economy. Schools and research. Immigration.
In some way, all these issues are tech issues. That means the next president’s science and technology policies will have long-lasting impact on the country.
“Tech definitely needs to be a part of the discourse when we choose the next president of the United States,” said Robert Atkinson, founder and president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, because it’s “involved in almost every aspect of our lives.”
Ahead of Monday’s debate, CNET and TechRepublic compiled a list of the most important technology issues facing the country to get a sense of what a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump administration might mean for the field. We used the candidates’ websites, public statements and interviews with other publications to research their positions.
We also contacted both campaigns for additional comment on their technology policies. The Clinton team sent us a detailed list of her comments on the issues and directed us to her website. The Trump team didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.
In February, Clinton called cybersecurity one of “the most important challenges the next president is going to face,” citing the offensive advances of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. In the National Security section of Clinton’s website, the candidate directly addresses risks posed by Russian and Chinese hackers.
Trump’s campaign website provides scant detail on his cybersecurity policy. However, the candidate told The New York Times that “certainly cyber has to be in our thought process, very strongly in our thought process…Inconceivable the power of cyber…you can make countries nonfunctioning with a strong use of cyber.” Trump also made a comment that seemed to encourage the Russian government to hack Clinton’s email. The remark was criticized by FBI chief James Comey. Trump later said he was being sarcastic.
Privacy and encryption
Clinton has a complex relationship with privacy and encryption. Her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state has dogged her campaign. She argued for compromise during the Apple-FBI standoff over whether Apple should be forced to help the agency crack into an iPhone used be a terrorist, and her policy position supports the formation of a commission to strike a balance between individual privacy and national security. “Hillary rejects the false choice between privacy interests and keeping Americans safe,” says her position statement.
Trump hasn’t issued a policy statement but his words indicate he isn’t sympathetic to privacy concerns when public safety is involved. He’s suggested the government should have access to encrypted devices, and he called out Apple during the tech giant’s standoff with the FBI. “Who do they think they are?” Trump said. “They have to open it up.”
The US should leave coordinating the domain name system that addresses internet sites to Los Angeles-based ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which takes over on October 1, Clinton says. The ICANN transition is “a critical step towards safeguarding the internet’s openness for future generations,” says the Clinton policy. ICANN is in charge of the Domain Name System (DNS) and is in charge of assigning IP addresses to top-level domains like .com, .net and .org.
Trump says the US should control the internet, end of story, and he objects to passing control to ICANN. “Congress needs to act, or internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost,” said Trump National Policy Director Stephen Miller said in a statement Tuesday.
For a detailed look at the ICANN issue, check out our rundown here.
When it comes to STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects, Clinton’s website enumerates a three-point plan with significant investments in such education, a proposal that’s nested in a detailed economic proposal. “A new generation of potential scientists, engineers, coders, and mathematicians are learning in classrooms across America right now,” she says. Her plan proposes spending and support in the private and public sectors at the regional and national levels.
Speaking to a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs in 2007 Clinton expressed support for H-1B visas, temporary visas for skilled workers. Her website states that Clinton would “staple” a green card to STEM masters and Ph.D.s from accredited institutions, enabling international students who complete degrees in these fields a path to permanent residence. Clinton also would support “startup” visas that let entrepreneurs from abroad come to the US to build tech companies.
Trump’s policy seeks to increase the pay for people holding H-1Bs as part of a plan to steer more work to Americans. “Raising the prevailing wage paid to H-1Bs will force companies to give…coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the US, instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas,” his policy says.
Clinton’s nearly 7,000-word Initiative on Technology & Innovation uses technology as the center of a broad platform of economic issues. The proposal includes funding for classroom technology and spurring tech exports. Clinton’s plan is supported by several major influential Silicon Valley technologists.
Trump hasn’t expressed much on the subject of innovation and research. But Silicon Valley has weighed in on the candidate’s potential impact. “Trump would be a disaster for innovation,” according to a July open letter signed by nearly 150 tech leaders, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
Atkinson, of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said Trump’s background in real estate isn’t “really geared toward innovation.”
Clinton opposes tax inversions. A tax inversion is a legal tactic that allows companies to migrate their tax burden to a country with a lower rate, while keeping primary corporate operations in the originating country. The practice has been associated with biotechnology companies and pharmaceutical firms. “I call it a perversion, but under the tax code it’s called an inversion,” she declared on her website. “And we will make you pay for that with a new exit tax.”
Trump wants to encourage US companies to build at home by instituting a 35 percent tax on products made outside of the US. He singled out Apple during a January stump speech saying, “We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.” Apple, which declined to comment on Trump’s comments at the time he made them, designs many of its products at its Silicon Valley headquarters and has them assembled in China. If Apple products were manufactured in the US, the price of an iPhone potentially could rise to around $900 to offset worker wages.