Special Briefing: Technology Under Trump Presidency


The votes are clear. But less clear is how the Trump presidency will impact technology. This briefing seeks to objectively connect the dots to identify how Trump policies will affect cyber security, corporate IT departments, small businesses IT, and the technology industry as a whole. Even though the Trump campaign's stances, morals, and overall culture have polarized and been denounced by many in the tech industry, this briefing identifies impact based on policy only. Impact caused by cultural and moral stances is deserving of its own separate analysis.


1. What Is Known About Trump’s Stance on Technology

Positions

While the Trump campaign has not outlined any detailed policies concerning technology specifically, some details can be gathered from other policies, previous statements, and party values. The table below shows what is known about the President-Elect’s positions on digital economy policy, according to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.

IssuePosition
Cyber Security
  • Trump has argued that the United States has obsolete cybersecurity capabilities and that it is falling further behind other countries. To address this, he has said that “cyber has to be in our thought process.”
  • Trump has also vowed to “enforce stronger protections against Chinese hackers … and our responses to Chinese theft will be swift, robust, and unequivocal.”
Encryption
  • Trump said that he fully agreed with a court order calling for Apple to facilitate access to an encrypted iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter.
Internet Governance
  • No position
Online Sales Tax
  • Trump has suggested that he believes online retailers should collect and remit sales taxes.
E-Government
  • Trump has not addressed this issue explicitly.
  • He has outlined a plan to modernize the Department of Veterans Affairs “by accelerating and expanding investments in state of the art technology to deliver best-in-class care quickly and effectively.”
  • In addition, he has stated that “All veterans should be able to conveniently schedule appointments, communicate with their doctors, and view accurate wait times with the push of a button.”
Open Data
  • No position
Copyright
  • No position
Online Speech
  • Trump has repeatedly stated that he wants to work with the tech industry to find ways to prevent ISIS from recruiting online.
Commercial Data Privacy
  • No position
Government Surveillance
  • Trump has stated that “I assume when I pick up my telephone, people are listening to my conversations anyway, if you want to know the truth. It’s pretty sad commentary, but I err on the side of security.”
  • He has also stated that he wants to restore the Patriot Act.
Artificial Intelligence
  • No position
Net Neutrality
  • Trump has expressed displeasure with the FCC’s Open Internet Order, tweeting that “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine.”

Proposed Legislation and Vision

The President-Elect has stated action he plans to take upon entering office:

  • Order an immediate review of all U.S. cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, including critical infrastructure, by a Cyber Review Team of individuals from the military, law enforcement, and the private sector.
  • Instruct the U.S. Department of Justice to create Joint Task Forces throughout the U.S. to coordinate Federal, State, and local law enforcement responses to cyber threats.
  • Order the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to provide recommendations for enhancing U.S. Cyber Command, with a focus on both offense and defense in the cyber domain.
  • Develop the offensive cyber capabilities we need to deter attacks by both state and non-state actors and, if necessary, to respond appropriately.

The one bit of proposed legislation referencing technology comes from the 100-day plan which states:

Restoring National Security Act. Rebuilds our military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding military investment; provides Veterans with the ability to receive public VA treatment or attend the private doctor of their choice; protects our vital infrastructure from cyber-attack [emphasis added]; establishes new screening procedures for immigration to ensure those who are admitted to our country support our people and our values.

Rumors and Speculation

The 2016 election was arguably shrouded in more speculation surrounding political events than any other previous election. The largest of which being interference by domestic and foreign state actors to influence the outcome of the election. The Director of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security are confident that the Russian Government directed compromises of emails from US persons and institutions (referring to the DNC/Clinton email hacks). Special scrutiny has fallen on Trump due to his rumored relationship with Russian Government officials. There have since been reports confirming these relationships during his campaign. It has not been proven, however, whether these relationships were used for nefarious purposes.

2. Projected Changes Under Trump Administration

Increased Government Surveillance

Based on his stance on government surveillance and proposed policies, the most obvious change that can be expected is a major increase in surveillance and intelligence gathering similar to or greater than what was previously provisioned under the Patriot Act.

Cyber Warfare

Experts such as John Chen, CEO of security technology firm BlackBerry with close ties to Washington, believe that there will be little change to the technology industry as a whole, but an uncertain impact to cyber security. Chen states in a Bloomberg interview:

“I think he’ll leave tech pretty much alone other than cyber. One of the things I know he is focusing on is cyber security, but he thinks about it like a warfare game, we think about it a little differently.”

Chen’s statement about Trump viewing cyber security more as warfare than as technology appears accurate given Trump’s positions and stances. With the President-Elect declaring his intention to develop offensive cyber weapons, and including cyber security in his National Security Act — it is almost certain that the United States will engage in cyber warfare under the future administration. The real question is who will be the target of such warfare? With close ties to foreign governments and intention to implement strong government surveillance, could American individuals, businesses, and political organizations be targeted by their own government? Or will Trump’s policies and cyber weapons be used in a way that respects privacy and results in a safer digital economy? The details are not yet clear.

Decreased Immigration and Penalized Offshore Development

Another matter to consider is immigration. While not a technology issue itself, it could potentially have a large impact on the technology industry due to the amount of immigrants, non-citizens, and offshore development employed by technology companies. Trump’s immigration policies include ending sanctuary cities, suspending issuance of visas, and stricter enforcement of immigration law; while his economic plans prioritize offering American workers jobs first and an America-First trade policy.

Ignoring special policies affecting Mexico, Trump’s vague but staunch policies on immigration and economics suggest that employers relying on non-US labor may lose access to their next generation of foreign talent; and companies relying on off-shore development may face trade penalties for doing so.

3. Conclusion: Impact on Technology in 2017

Based on the information and projections presented here, we at CodeRed offer the following advisory and predictions for how technology will be impacted during the Trump presidency. Impact is broken down based on sector.

SectorImpact
Cyber Security
  • An increase in cyber attacks that will cause unprecedented levels of damage.
  • State-sanctioned threat actors must be included in security models.
  • Strong one-way encryption continues to be the best way to protect against government surveillance and mandates to “hand over the keys”.
Corporate IT
  • Vendor reviews must be more aggressive to determine vendor usage of outsourced labor, security practices, and datacenter locations.
  • Disaster recovery should be prioritized given the likelihood of cyber attack.
  • Contingencies may arise due to loss of non-citizen IT workers.
    Small Business IT
    • Contingency planning and critical review of outsourced IT vendors.
    • Small businesses continue to be highly vulnerable due to lack of security practices.
    Tech Industry
    • Tech industry as a whole will see minimal impact.
    • Net neutrality may swing in favor of telecoms and against internet-based companies.
    • Customers will increasingly demand disclosure of security practices.

    In summary, our research of Trump technology policies does not indicate a net “positive” or “negative” impact — but an impact nonetheless. A push for government surveillance and cyber weapons will inevitably improve the Nation’s digital infrastructure — but will this result in a safer digital economy, or an abuse of power? Immigration will undoubtably impact technology companies, but the net gain of American jobs versus loss of high-skill low-pay labor is not yet clear. The emphasis on national security further reinforces American business’ duty to protect their own data and the data of their customers.