Policy

Internet giants want Trump to back strong encryption

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A lobbying group of 40 internet companies wants to make sure its policy priorities are considered by the Trump administration from Day One.

The Internet Association -- which includes Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter, among others -- sent Trump a roadmap on Nov. 14 specifying policy steps needed to protect the organization's top internet priorities.

Those priorities include flexible copyright laws; data security and privacy; strong encryption; education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and immigration reform.

The association also stressed the importance of promoting data-driven innovation, saying that companies "at the frontier of data analytics" and data-driven decision-making are more productive and profitable than their competitors and that data sharing could provide the equivalent of $300 billion to America's health care sector.

Furthermore, the group states that consumers are "the ultimate winners from data innovation," the letters cites benefits ranging from accurate traffic data, health care improvements, lower prices on goods and services, and increased transparency.

To protect privacy, the Internet Association advocates surveillance reform consistent "with the important privacy values reflected in the Constitution" and argues that increased regulation threatens the potential for innovation.

Specifically, the association says companies' and consumers' data must be protected by strong encryption and asks the Trump administration to reform the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. An update to the bill passed the House in April, but the Senate dropped plans to vote on the bill in June.

"Laws that require companies to engineer vulnerabilities into products and services harm personal privacy and endanger national security," the letter states. "Support for strong encryption makes America more secure."

The government's ability to access information on encrypted devices has been hotly contested by the private sector and law enforcement, most publicly when Apple opposed a court order to disable some security features on an iPhone in the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., last year.

At the time, Trump plainly sided with the FBI.

To aid law enforcement, the Internet Association suggests improving law enforcement's access to data outside U.S. borders.

The group also asks the Trump administration to support policies that "build a long-term foundation for improving diversity in the tech industry" by financially supporting computer science education in rural and underrepresented communities.

To date, most of the president-elect's comments with regard to technology have been in the context of national security. In October, he vowed that cybersecurity will be "an immediate and top priority for my administration" and proposed the creation of a cyber review team to examine weaknesses in government systems.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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