White House Wants Regulators to Keep Hands Off Tech Industry

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National security and economic growth depend on a free and open internet, U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios said.

The White House’s top tech adviser on Tuesday redoubled the Trump administration’s commitment to deregulate the tech sector and scorned countries that seek to restrict the information flowing across their borders.

Michael Kratsios, the deputy U.S. chief technology officer within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, outlined the administration’s strategy for spurring the growth of emerging technologies. The plan echoes the president’s overall laissez-faire approach to economic policy while calling for stronger intellectual property protections on technologies developed in the United States.

“As policymakers, it’s our role to foster an environment free of barriers to innovation,” Kratsios said at a forum hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Our national security and economic future depend on it.”

Among the administration’s top priorities is tearing down regulatory barriers that can “kill a nascent technology before it ever has a chance to fuel economic growth or create jobs,” he said, echoing the sentiments of many in the tech industry. But while preemptive restrictions could stifle innovation, regulations can play a role in addressing issues that arise as technologies develop, he added.

He pointed to multiple instances when the White House applied this principle, including its endorsement of non-mandated guidelines for self-driving cars and its proposed rollback of regulations on commercial drone pilots.

Kratsios and other administration officials also rebuked countries like China and Iran that put up legal barriers to a free and open internet.

“Digital trade is increasingly under threat through a growing number of laws and regulations that block the flow of data across borders,” Kratsios said.

Authoritarian internet policies not only impede economic growth, but could also raise cybersecurity concerns if tech companies sacrifice user privacy to gain access to foreign markets, said Rob Strayer, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for cyber and international communications and information policy.

“Security and digital economy issues are very much intertwined,” he said. “It’s becoming more and more of a foreign policy imperative that we have an aggressive and strong outreach on those policy issues going forward.”

In a conversation with Nextgov, Strayer expressed particular concern over a 2017 cybersecurity law in China that would give the government sweeping authority over websites and internet providers operating within the county. Though Chinese officials are still hammering out the details, he worries about the data privacy and security implications for U.S. companies and consumers.

To combat this issue in the coming years, Strayer advocated for creating international data protection standards based on key principles from different countries’ legal systems to ensure basic internet freedom rights around the globe.