September 12, 2012, 3:29 PM — In the presidential campaign, cybersecurity and Internet freedom won't get top billing as the candidates spar over their plans for creating jobs and cutting deficits, but the two major parties have included positions on several technology policy issues in the platforms ratified at their recent conventions.
To be sure, candidates at times differ from the positions articulated in the party platform, but there is considerable overlap, particularly on tech issues, and the documents serve as a useful primer on the prevailing sentiment of the parties.
There will be plenty more to learn as the candidates elaborate on the specifics of their positions in the debates and on the campaign trail, but in the meantime, here is an overview of the party platforms' treatment of key issues in the tech sector.
Cybersecurity Threatens National Security
In keeping with the spirit of the long-running debate in Washington over what policies should be implemented to strengthen the nation's defenses against a cyber attack, both party platforms acknowledge that the threats are very real and imminent, invoking at times dire language to frame the issue. The Democrats warn: "Cybersecurity threats represent one of the most serious potential national security, public safety and economic challenges we face," while the Republicans caution that the country "cannot afford to risk the cyber-equivalent of Pearl Harbor."
And both parties have been supportive of cybersecurity reform efforts, but the legislation the White House has backed, endorsed in the party platform, would give new oversight authorities to the federal government over critical digital infrastructure in the private sector, a key provision in a comprehensive bill that Republicans blocked in the Senate earlier this year.
The GOP platform, by contrast, calls for an overhaul of the 10-year-old statute that provided security standards for IT systems used by the federal government, the Federal Information Security Management Act, to tighten the government's defenses.
But information sharing was the main focus of the Republicans' policy statement, echoing the alternative legislation that GOP members of the Senate introduced this year to clear away barriers preventing network operators in the private and public sectors from exchanging information about potential threats.