Presidential Tech debate liveblog from CFP

Liveblogging a presentation at the 19th Annual Conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy by tech advisors to the Obama and McCain campaigns, entitled the Clinton Campaign was invited to participate, but declined. The official title of the session, Presidential Technology Policy: Priorities for the Next Executive

In attendance a blend of academics, dotgovs, corporados, civil liberties orgs, cyberpunks.

Opening, Conference Chair Eddan Katz of Yale reminds that the only tech question of the 2000 Predidential debate cycle, asked at the MYV/CNN debate, was “Mac or PC.” Apparently, the questioner had a more sophisticated question in mind, but was told to use the softball by debate organizers.

For the Obama Campaign: Danny Weitzner (sp?) formerly of Center for Democracy and Technology

Opening statement: Wiezner: The campaign’s use of tech has brought in a lot of people with tech sophistication. Net Neutrality a fundamental value.

Sen. Obama a supporter of diverse media ownership. Reverse consolidation trends. Free expression while protecting children. Tools into hands of parents, work we law enforcement rather than censorship.

Critical of abuse of nat Sec letters.

Consumer Privacy: In addition to traditional privacy protection, new legislation for private use of info. Protect against abuse of genetic information.

Govt wide Chief Technology Officer.

Promoting broadband deployment

Patent reform

Chuck Fish for McCain former counsel for Time-Warner (patents)

Update 1

Fish mostly talkking making US tech economically competitive. Education, expansion of H1B visas.

Light regulation, free and open markets. “When you bneed a telecon Act, 700,000 words, “perhaps that tells you ypu’re going down the wrong path.” Incorrect regulation stifles innovation.”

Reform Sarbanes/Oxley

“Commitment to discovery.” 2.7% of GDP on R&D, needs to be more. Make R&D tax credit permanent.

Update 2 Fish:

Privacy. (not his specialty)

Liberty is not licentiousness.

Privacy must be seen in context of what’s necessary for personal security.

Update 3 Questions

What is the role of Govt in ensuring broadband infrastructure is available?

Fish: I can’t make anything of his response.

Weizner: We’re doing well in integrating. Skeptical of value of new regulation, last time it got so bogged in court as to be useful. Openess more important than bandwidth. McCain has said market forces will keep net open, w anti-trust in background. We see a need for Net Neutrality legislation.

Update 4 NSA Wiretap cases, changes to law?

Fish: More collaborative legislative process. Important and competing values. Factfinding, not posturing. Immunity: tough question. “We’re not talking about indulgences.” Hearings to find out what actually happened. Need clear rules going forward.

Weizner: Recognises McCain’s voice against torture.

Obama’s history: In PATRIOT , supported Judicial review. ( but voted for renewal without it.) Voted against retro immunity, McCain didn’t.

Forward, See TCampaign’s tech whitrepaper.

Advanced surveillance and datamining can be important tools for Nat. Security, wants to protect against mission creep to traditional law enforcement.

Update 5Intellectual Property, should there be an IP Czar?

Weizner, no. Campaign has not stated a position on DMCA. His view, we got ahead of ourselves.

Fish: His opionion No Czar. Campaign has not taken a position.

Weizner: No new laws needed to protect US IP, just enforcemnent of existing laws. Fish: Agrees.

Update 6 China Olympics censorship

Weizner I’m unaware of a position from the Campaign. My view, we can be persuasive. US businesses have to abide by laws of countries in which they operate.

Fish: Also no official position from Campaign. There are limits on our ability to influence. McCain believes we win by example.

Update 7 Audience questions

Will your candidate use email? Will the WhiteHouse use non-gove email servers?

Fish: Yes, Definitively No.

Weizner: I’ve never received a personal email from Barrack, but I believe he’s familiar. I’d expoect we’d use open gov’t servers.

Update 8(I missed the quesation, Weizner calls for more openess of govt info, roll back new Bush “sensitive but unclassified.”

Update 9, My Question

Cellphone location tracking: should Law enforcement need a warrant?

Weizner: No position from campaign. Court rulings in different have varied. We should not shut tracking, but need oversight, wait for the courts before legislating.

Fish, Same.

I’m taking timeout..

Update 10 Consumer Privacy:

Fish: Business has always known more about us than Govt. We’re reluctant to legislate solution in search of a problem.

weizner: Not aleways up to consumer to protect themselves, we’d consider strengthening FTC role in particulars.

Update 11 Three Qs together: FISA going forward

Fish: McCain has said it’s an outrage that House has not dealt with responsibility to update.

W: Obama voted against confirming Hayden. Actions not up to standards.

Securing Govt. data “Cybersecurity Initiative

Fish: No evidence of a problem. ???

W: No campaign position. I can’t make much of his personal answer.

Respecting privacy of those outside US (Question from European)

Neither answered.

12: Pre-emption of State Privacy Laws

W; Sees benefit of diversity in some areas.

F: Agrees nearly entirely. McCain a federalist in general.

13 Universal Service

W: Decreasing need, don’t scrap the fund yet.

F: A robust market solves those problems most of the time. Targetted fixes where a problem’s demonstrated.

14 How do we engage with your campaign and adminitration on these issues going forward?

W: This campaign is committed to engagement. Offers his email [email protected]

F: You can also start your own conversations, blogs, wikis etc, and we’ll notice…


Others blogging the session include Ryan Singel at Wired, Julian Sanchez at Reason.


  1. Very nice to hear the strong endorsement by the Obama campaign for Net Neutrality, but I would also like to see similar definitive statements on some of these other extremely critical issues.

    Even so, it’s clear that Obama’s tech policies would be far more Progressive than McCain’s market driven ideology of  leaving us to the tender mercies of the Telcos.

    Great Job on this.

  2. …and bringing these sorts of issues to our attention.

    Plus, it is a pleasure to see you here at DD in general.

  3. Ryan Singel’s post at Wired

    NEW HAVEN, Connecticut — As president, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain would not support immunity for the telecoms that aided the Bush administration’s warrantless spying program, unless there were revealing Congressional hearings and heartfelt repentance from those telephone and internet companies, a campaign surrogate said Wednesday.


    The remarks from Chuck Fish, a full-time lawyer for the McCain campaign and a Time Warner vice president, represent a big change on the issue for McCain, who voted in February to keep immunity in the Senate spying bill. Fish was careful to say, however, that he was answering a double-hypothetical question — if McCain wins, and if the issue is still alive in 2009.

    “First, we need to be explicit we are not talking about granting indulgences,” Fish said, clarifying that he meant forgiveness must be matched with repentance.

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