Obama heads Stanford Summit on cybersecurity

obama cybersecurity summitOn Friday, President Obama travels to Stanford University to give the keynote address on a topic much in the news: cybersecurity. Last week, Anthem Blue Cross was hacked and data stolen. Previous data breaches have hit Target and Home Depot.

He’ll talk at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection. According to Stanford News, participants include other government leaders, law-enforcement officials, consumer advocates, students and executives from finance, technology, security and communications companies.

Most watched will be the president’s remarks on information security and the reaction of top Silicon Valley executives, Jim Harper told CalWatchdog.com; he’s a senior fellow in information studies at the Cato Institute. He said that, because the president now is a lame duck and doesn’t face re-election, he might not “feel he has to be too strong on cybersecurity” by his own government.

It’s been less than two years since National Security contract employee Edward Snowden exposed how the NSA essentially scoops up almost all data in America. Yet neither the president nor Congress has advanced any substantial changes in policy.

“Obama has essentially allowed the NSA free rein,” Harper said. “And what the NSA has done is a major setback for Silicon Valley” because potential customers, especially overseas, can’t be sure American services aren’t bugged by the NSA from the start. That situation encourages business moving to the foreign competition.

Harper said he expects “some of the speeches from Silicon Valley will give him a piece of their mind” on the security issue. Most watched will be the comments of Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple Inc., the Valley’s most glittering and profitable company.

And because of the president’s problem with government spying on data, Harper added, anything he says about private security networks will be questioned.

FCC regulations

The president’s visit also comes as his appointees on the Federal Communications Commission seek heavier regulation of the Internet through what is called “Net Neutrality” or the “Open Internet.” It’s a topic he also might address.

According to the FCC’s website, “Under this principle, consumers can make their own choices about what applications and services to use and are free to decide what lawful content they want to access, create, or share with others. This openness promotes competition and enables investment and innovation.”

Critics charge Net Neutrality would mean 1930s-era telephone regulations applied to the Internet, with heavy handed government involvement stifling innovation.

Harper said Obama now is “at the mercy of the bureaucrats” he appointed. And because the president is a lame duck, he doesn’t have a compelling reason to go against the FCC.

The Federal Election Commission also is getting into the act. The Washington Examiner reported today, “Claiming that thousands of public comments condemning ‘dark money’ in politics can’t be ignored, the Democrat-chaired Federal Election Commission on Wednesday appeared ready to open the door to new regulations on donors, bloggers and others who use the Internet to influence policy and campaigns.”

Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley remains the driving engine of California’s economy, as well as much of the U.S. and world economies. So the reactions of tech luminaries to the president’s words will be telling on how the industry, which has been increasingly active in politics, will be reacting to Obama administration actions.

Just last October, Apple offered stronger encryption on its communications, bringing down a condemnation from the Obama administration.

Reported the Guardian, “The latest version of Apple’s operating system for desktop and laptop computers, Mac OS X 10.10 ‘Yosemite,’ encourages users to turn on the company’s FileVault disk encryption, as the company hardens its pro-security stance. … The FBI’s director, James Comey, decried the company’s decision to offer similar tools on mobile devices running iOS 8.”

Google quickly followed suit with its Android operating system.


According to the White House agenda, in addition to Cook, those in the private sector scheduled to speak or on panels include:

  • Stanford President John Hennessy;
  • Michael Brown, CEO, Symantec;
  • Lorrie Faith Cranor, Professor, Carnegie Mellon University and Advisory Board Member, Electronic Frontier Foundation;
  • Stina Ehrensvard, CEO and Founder, Yubikey;
  • Mark Kelsey, CEO, LexisNexis;
  • Scott Charney, Corporate VP Trustworthy Computing, Microsoft;
  • Eric Grosse, VP for Security Engineering, Google;
  • Melody Hildebrandt, Global head of cyber security, Palantir;
  • Alex Stamos, Chief Information Security Officer, Yahoo;
  • Joe Sullivan, Chief Information Security Officer, Facebook.

In addition to the president, government speakers include:

  • Lisa Monaco, National Security Council;
  • Jeff Zients, National Economic Council;
  • Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, U.S. Small Business Administration;
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
  • Matt Olsen, Former Director, National Counterterrorism Center;
  • Joseph Demarest, Federal Bureau of Investigation;
  • Ed Lowery, U.S. Secret Service;
  • Jamie Saunders, Director National Cyber Crime Unit, United Kingdom National Crime Agency;
  • Bilal Sen, United Nations Office of Drug and Crime.

John Seiler

John Seiler

John Seiler has been writing about California for 25 years. That includes 22 years as an editorial writer for the Orange County Register and two years for CalWatchDog.com, where he is managing editor. He attended the University of Michigan and graduated from Hillsdale College. He was a Russian linguist in U.S. Army military intelligence from 1978 to 1982. He was an editor and writer for Phillips Publishing Company from 1983 to 1986. He has written for Policy Review, Chronicles, LewRockwell.com, Flash Report and numerous other publications. His email: [email protected]

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