As the shock of Trump’s surprise election win gives way to processing the consequences of a Trump presidency, one issue that has not gotten as much attention is privacy and data security.
Trump did not say much on this topic on the campaign trail and his “vision” for cybersecurity on his campaign website is relatively thin. But we can glean some information from his public comments. As always with Trump, unpredictability is his trademark, so it is anyone’s guess whether his actions going forward will be consistent with his past statements.
- Trump previously vowed to strengthen the government’s cybersecurity capabilities and to make it a top priority. However, Trump openly supports hacking back, a controversial strategy. Inconsistently, Trump previously advocated for Russia to hack Clinton’s email servers but has called Edward Snowden a traitor.
- Trump appears to believe that technology companies should build backdoors into their systems (something Microsoft, Google, and Apple have all strongly argued against). Trump said Apple should have been forced to help the FBI break into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters and called for a boycott of Apple products after the company refused to cooperate with the FBI.
- Trump appears to be a big fan of surveillance. When he was a candidate, Trump said he wanted to place mosques under U.S. surveillance and create a national database to track Muslims. He supports reauthorizing the Patriot Act and bulk cell phone metadata collection by the NSA. In fact, Trump previously said the NSA “should be given as much leeway as possible.”
- Trump has commented that he would be in favor of closing parts of the internet, even though that would put the U.S. in the company of dictatorships such as China and North Korea, which censor parts of the web.
- Under Trump, the FTC will undergo a shift in leadership and, possibly, agenda. Trump will be able to fill the two currently open seats and appoint a new chairman. Thus, for the first time in nearly a decade, the FTC will likely have a 3-2 Republican majority. Dr. Joshua D. Wright has been named to lead transition efforts at the FTC. Wright was previously a Commissioner at the agency and, during his tenure, he pushed for greater guidance on the FTC’s authority to police “unfair” and “deceptive” practices under Section 5.
It is inevitable that there will be changes under a Trump administration, but it is the uncertainty of what Trump will do in the area of privacy and data security that has many worried. Privacy advocates in particular are concerned that the country will lose the progress that was made under Obama. From his past statements, we can broadly conclude that Trump appears to be in favor of increasing the surveillance powers of intelligence agencies at the cost of personal privacy.