Tech and the presidential race

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Image Credits: Brian Blanco / Getty Images

Ayinde Alakoye

Contributor

Ayinde O. Alakoye is the founder and CEO of Hitch Radio.

For Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the importance of articulating a vision for the technology industry seems to be lost.

While Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton released a comprehensive technology policy platform in June that should excite software developers, Mr. Trump doesn’t pay much attention to our industry’s concerns and is, frankly, on the wrong side of many of the most important issues facing tech today.

Over the course of his candidacy, Mr. Trump has questioned basic data security and privacy principles, called for the boycott of a trusted American innovator and wondered about the virtues of the internet. If elected president, Mr. Trump’s views on technology could wall off the industry, stifle job and economic growth and cede the United States’ long-held position as the world’s innovation hub.

Over the course of the last year, there has been much discussion surrounding the merits of encryption. The technology industry, law enforcement and civil society groups are engaged in a long debate with one another over the benefits of encryption and whether the government can require companies to deliberately undermine their products’ privacy safeguards in the name of security.

Consumers and the tech industry oppose such efforts because they would expose to bad actors users’ most personal information, including health and bank records, personal conversations, photos and much more. Data security and online privacy are core principles in today’s digital arena, helping to spur innovation and economic growth.

Unfortunately, Mr. Trump seems to ignore common sense calls for a balanced approach to encryption, going so far as calling for a boycott of Apple products until the company complied with an FBI request to torpedo iPhone security. (True to form, Mr. Trump ignored his own statements and continues to hold more than a million dollars in Apple stock and to tweet from an iPhone.)

On the internet, Mr. Trump’s positions are just as irresponsible. He has discussed “closing that internet up in some way,” saying “we’re losing a lot of people to [it].” Most recently, Mr. Trump has said he is “not a believer in email,” and suggested the military use couriers instead of “the wires where everybody’s probably reading it,” a proposal befit for a man who has encouraged foreign governments to hack American communications.

By contrast, Ms. Clinton recognizes the importance of the online economy. She has named a group of talented technology policy advisers, pledged to appoint a chief innovation adviser and developed a technology platform, in which she promises to fight for internet freedom and oppose “efforts to block internet access or shutdown social media.”

The internet has enabled users to call attention to human rights violations, organize protests and otherwise tear down the divisive walls that he and others like him seek to build. It connects people in far-flung places and is without a doubt one of humanity’s greatest achievements. Yet, even against this backdrop, Mr. Trump has said that he has “always been concerned about the social breakdown of our culture caused by technology.”

As the descendant of African slaves and later American citizens who lived under Jim Crow laws, my ancestors risked their lives to experience the American dream. Today, having started my own technology company, I’m proud to count myself among America’s entrepreneurs, hopefully making those who came before me proud.

My story isn’t unique — an unmistakable indicator, if there ever was one, that America is and has always been the land of ideas and risk takers. Nevertheless, by centering his rhetoric on building barriers for people, ideas and information, Mr. Trump is tearing at the very fabric of the innovation community.

The internet and other forward-looking technologies are the foundation upon which today’s economy and society rest. Any serious candidate running for president must develop an articulate and inclusive policy agenda to ensure the technology industry broadly, and its developers specifically, can continue to innovate, grow and make our world a better place.

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