Obama, tech industry speak at Stanford

by John Seiler | February 13, 2015 7:13 pm

Obama cybersecurity summit 2Speaking today at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection[1] at Stanford University, President Obama and tech industry leaders outlined different visions of the digital future.

While the president called for cooperation between government and industry to increase the security of online systems, Tim Cook, leading tech speakers, called for industry to address the problem.

The texts of the speeches are not yet available online. But Stanford News [2]reported Obama said, “This has to be a shared mission. Government cannot do this alone. But the private sector cannot do it alone, either.”

The president also brought up a controversial topic that has brought opposition from Silicon Valley titans, most of whom supported him during his election campaigns: government abuse of its snooping powers. It was on his watch that Edward Snowden, currently in exile in Russia, revealed the National Security Agency spies on most digital communications.

“Grappling with how the government protects the American people from adverse events while making sure the government itself is not abusing its capabilities is hard,” Obama said. “The cyber world is the wild, wild west. To some degree, we’re asked to be the sheriff.”

But he asked, “What safeguards do we have against the government intruding on our own privacies?”

‘Best protection’

Taking the podium right before Obama, Cook spoke of cooperating with government. “Safeguarding the world of digitized personal information is an enormous task,” Cook said. “And no single company or organization can accomplish it on its own. That is why we’re committed to engaging productively with the White House and Congress and putting the results of these conversations into action.”

However, according to the San Jose Mercury News, Cook also said, “People have entrusted us with their most personal and precious information. We owe them nothing less than the best protection that we can possibly provide.”

That was a reference to Apple automatically encrypting all data on its devices, despite being denounced [3]by Obama’s FBI. Apple’s action was followed by Google on its Android devices.

As the Mercury News reported, “In his speech, Cook emphasized the importance of protecting consumer privacy and took a veiled shot at critics in the administration and law enforcement who have complained that Apple’s encryption practices have made it difficult for them to pursue criminals and other bad actors. Cook argued that his company and others have an obligation to protect customer data.”

Cybersecurity Executive Order

As part of his actions in this area, yesterday Obama signed Executive Order 13636, “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.” According to the White House’s website[4]:

“The Executive Order is designed to increase the level of core capabilities for our critical infrastructure to manage cyber risk. It does this by focusing on three key areas: (1) information sharing, (2) privacy, and (3) the adoption of cybersecurity practices.

“The EO tasked the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) to work with the private sector to identify existing voluntary consensus standards and industry best practices and build them into a Cybersecurity Framework. The Administration recognizes that there are private-sector cyber leaders who are already implementing strong cybersecurity controls, policies, procedures and innovations and asked these companies to help us shape best practices across critical infrastructure. The President then directed DHS [Department of Homeland Security] to establish a voluntary program to promote the adoption of the Framework.”

However, given Silicon Valley’s leeriness toward government actions, as expressed by Cook, time will tell how much cooperation there will be on this program.

  1. Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection: http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/foreign-policy/cybersecurity/summit
  2. Stanford News : http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/february/summit-main-obama-021315.html
  3. denounced : http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/17/apple-defies-fbi-encryption-mac-osx
  4. website: http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/foreign-policy/cybersecurity/eo-13636

Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2015/02/13/obama-tech-industry-clash-at-stanford/