Like many other sectors, the IT industry is coming to terms with the Donald Trump presidency, and the impact it may have on innovation and growth. Mr Trump’s own statements hint at drastic changes in certain areas, so this month we examine four key topics and what we know so far.
Trump on private data
Privacy has long been a controversial topic and Trump’s actions in this area have served only to intensify this particular debate.
After Apple refused to comply with an FBI request to hand over data from the phone of a San Bernardino attacker, Trump tweeted, “Boycott Apple until such time as they give that information.” He later tweeted, “I would come down so hard on Tim Cook his head would be spinning all the way back to Silicon Valley.”
President Trump’s approach to privacy rights was also questioned following his executive order banning travellers from seven countries. Multiple media outlets suggested people would be asked to give their social media log-ins to border security.
With Donald Trump’s previous remarks concerning the re-introduction of the Patriot Act, which empowers the government to snoop on individuals on the pretext of national security, privacy promises to remain high on the agenda of the new administration.
Trump on cyber security
In the field of cybercrime, one of the most widely reported comments made by Donald Trump, before he won the election and in response to news that the Russians had tried to hack the election, was this.
“It is a huge problem. I have a son – he’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers. It’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe, it’s hardly doable. But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing. But that’s true throughout our whole governmental society. We have so many things that we have to do better. And certainly cyber is one of them.”
So it would appear that the incoming president has a limited knowledge of technology but he has said he wants to defer to specialists in key roles. Some have suggested that the Homeland Security Advisor candidate Tom Bossert could be a voice of reason when it comes to cyber security.
Trump on net neutrality
Many industry commentators fear that the election of an arch-capitalist may signify the end of net neutrality. Trump has spoken in the past of his support for an internet fast lane – where corporations will be able to pay a premium for super-fast bandwidth.
The principle of net neutrality, a concept that is currently in place, is that all users of the internet should share bandwidth equally. Supporters of this model say it provides a level playing field, whereas Trump believes it is unfair to companies looking to pay for better performance.
Phys.org suggests that the appointment of Ajit Pai as chair of the Federal Communications Commission is a clear indication of Trump’s desire to follow through, reporting that Pai is a fierce critic of the Obama-era net neutrality.
Trump on foreign workers
President Trump’s “buy American, hire American” motto, along with the travel ban, rang alarm bells throughout the IT industry, which employs people from all over the world. Indeed, even before the inauguration on 20th January, tech companies were already hesitant about hiring foreign workers.
Romish Badani, an immigration legal service provider for tech startups, said in December, “We’re seeing hesitation. Small companies are saying, ‘Maybe hiring foreign talent isn’t worth it at this stage,’ and some foreign entrepreneurs are starting to shy away. They say they are going to wait to see how this plays out.”
The specific area of concern relates to the H1-B visa, which is considered vital for tech companies looking to fill their ranks with skilled developers and engineers from outside the USA.
Trump, in March 2016, described the H1-B visa as “very bad for business” and “very bad for our workers”. He said the visa should be ended, but new proposals suggest it is being tightened up. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that a draft executive order could impact how tech companies recruit employees.
It’s still early days for the Trump administration but one thing is already clear. If the rest of his term is as eventful as his first month in office, the technology sector may have a few more surprises in store before 2020.