Tech groups call on presidential candidates to support encryption, embrace other IT issues

Candidates should talk more about cybersecurity and other tech issues, trade groups say

U.S. presidential candidates should embrace encryption and narrow government access to Internet users' data as part of a comprehensive technology agenda, IT trade groups say.

While the FBI and some lawmakers have pushed in recent months for encryption workarounds in criminal investigations, presidential candidates should "recognize encryption as a critical security tool," 13 tech trade organizations said in a set of tech policy recommendations released late Wednesday.

By narrowly targeting governments' access to consumer data, the next president can promote global trust in digital goods and services, said the groups, representing hundreds of tech companies. Trade groups signing the letter included the Telecommunications Industry Association, the Consumer Technology Association, and BSA.

The letter suggests presidential candidates haven't spent enough time talking about tech-related issues. "The technology sector is eager to see robust engagement on, and ultimately support for, the issues that matter most to our nation," the letter says.

The groups will work to make sure innovation issues are "infused" into the presidential campaign, said Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council. "The issues we have outlined are too important to be ignored or treated like bumper sticker slogans," he said in a statement.

The letter offers candidates ideas on how to improve the U.S. economy, added Heather Greenfield, communications director for the Computer and Communications Industry Association, another group signing on.

"As candidates talk about growing the economy, this list offers some low-cost and even no-cost ideas that help our entire economy," she said by email. "As the candidates fine-tune their policy proposals, we hope to show how the tech industry can offer not just innovative products for consumers, but smart strategies for economic growth for the country."

Top tech priorities for the presidential candidates should also include promoting best practices for cybersecurity, welcoming skilled immigrants, and investing in science and technology training programs, the groups said.

So far, the U.S. presidential campaign has largely stayed away from technology issues, with illegal immigration, worker wages, and other issues dominating the campaign. Businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, have spent little time talking about tech issues.

Trump has talked about shutting down parts of the Internet as a way to block communication between terrorists.

Clinton has talked about cybersecurity issues in some recent speeches, and her website includes a short policy statement on cyberattacks.

Clinton will encourage the public and private sectors to work together "to strengthen security and build resiliency for economy and infrastructure," her website says. "Our country will outpace this rapidly changing threat, maintain strong protections against unwarranted government or corporate surveillance, and ensure American companies are the most competitive in the world."

Clinton and Trump have both raised concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that many tech groups have pushed for. The candidates worry about the trade deal taking jobs away from U.S. workers, while tech companies see it as opening up new markets for their products.

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service
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