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
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.
|Online Sales Tax|
|Commercial Data Privacy|
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.
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.
|Small Business IT|
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.