California Senate Republican candidates answer tech questions

The California Senate campaign is creating a tight race. Looking to unseat incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer are four Republicans, including Tom Campbell, who previously was running for Governor, and Carly Fiorina, former HP CEO.

The California Senate campaign is creating a tight race.  Looking to unseat incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer are four Republicans:  Al Ramirez, a telecom executive; Tom Campbell, who previously was running for Governor and has switched to running for the Senate seat; Chuck DeVore of the California State Assembly;  and Carly Fiorina, former HP CEO. Two previous posts I've written stirred up the campaign teams at Tom Campbell's headquarters and Fiorina's.

Responding to these enquiries, I fired off four broad questions about current issues impacting the high tech corridor that have shaken Silicon Valley. Google's challenges in China and criticism of privacy controls with the launch of Google Buzz inside of Gmail have the company in hot water.

Privacy, security and commerce questions seemed appropriate questions to ask where the candidates stood on these issues.   Several attempts to contact Al Ramirez, Chuck DeVore (Update: he has now done so, see below), and Senator Barbara Boxer's campaign teams via email and telephone  went unanswered. Tom Campbell and Carly Fiorina responded on the Republican side. In their own words, here are their answers.

Carly Fiorina

Internet Privacy - what is your General position on Privacy Law and Information sharing?

A: The advent of technology has provided us with many opportunities for advancement through information sharing in such diverse fields as medicine, public safety and commerce. For example, electronic health records are frequently discussed as something whose widespread uptake could help to improve health care in the U.S. At the same time, however, it is critically important that treat privacy and guarding and securing personal information as a top priority. As someone who has worked in the tech sector, I would also add that with more and more tech companies able to profit from access to personal information where people use particular technologies online, it's important that companies be transparent and forthright about the circumstances under which they will collect and use data-sometimes there's a lack of clarity there that angers consumers and prevents them from making fully informed choices Internet Taxation - should state taxes be applied to Internet commerce?

I do not believe we should be imposing taxes with regard to either Internet use or commerce conducted on the Internet commerce - whether they are leveled at the state or national level. This is a position I have long-held both as a fiscal conservative and leader in the technology industry. As a U.S. Senator, I will not vote for any new or increased taxes on the citizens or enterprises of California or of this country. Internet Security

What is your position on Google's security breach that occurred in China?

There is no doubt that China has aggressively pirated the intellectual property of American companies on an ongoing basis, in contravention of its WTO obligations. I think we must do everything we can to protect that intellectual property and stop these kinds of abuses, while also ensuring that markets are not shut to American companies keeping avenues to trade open. As a company, Google's priority is obviously doing in China what it believes makes the most sense for itself. As a country, the U.S. should stand up, move aggressively to stop these abuses, and protect the intellectual property rights of American innovators.

Would you vote for sanctions against China if Google or any other Internet / technology company continues to be attacked?

Internet hacking, whether by organized criminals or state-sponsored, is a serious threat to commercial markets, personal freedom and national security. We must take seriously threats to our cybersecurity and address them directly with the appropriate tools. The decision to impose sanctions on any country is one that must be taken very seriously. Before voting to support any such action, it's critical to know if the cyber attack was state-sponsored, the type of sanctions being considered, whether sanctions are likely to produce the desired results, and also to consider the unintended consequences of any series of sanctions. The bottom line is that, like Google, the United States must defend its own interests in China and elsewhere, and this includes taking all prudent measures to resist cyberhacking and data security breaches. While I don't believe sanctions are the right path at this time, China also needs to understand that sanctions may be on the table if it continues behavior that evidences that it is in routine violation of its obligations. What is your position on Information sharing concerning Internet privacy? Should U.S. intelligence agencies be allowed to investigate its citizens accessing information that is housed or stored at service providers like Google, Myspace, Facebook without a warrant?

The most important responsibility of government is to protect its citizens, and that responsibility applies just as much online as it does in the physical world. What is illegal in the physical world should also be illegal in the online world.  We need to take a tough stance with regard to crimes that are committed on the Internet, such as the publication of child pornography. I also do not believe that information housed or stored by service providers should not be open and accessible to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies unless there is good reason to believe that criminal activity is occurring or there is an imminent threat to our national security. Protecting our citizens and defending our rights to privacy are not conflicting objectives.  We can, and must, do both.

Tom Campbell

Internet Privacy - what is your General position on Privacy Law and Information sharing

I was one of the very first Congressmen to support the strongest protections of internet privacy. Please check with the founders of the on-line privacy organizations on this. No information should be shared without the explicit permission of the individual; that means opt-in not opt-out.

Internet Taxation - should state taxes be applied to Internet commerce?

Congress should allow the states to reach their own agreement on this. The US Constitution forbids states from imposing sales taxes unless there is a presence of the vendor in the state, or unless Congress approves. A number of states have proposed a compact whereby they would collect sales tax from the purchaser of goods over the internet. This would then allow the states to lower the rate of sales tax for goods sold in physical stores in the state. As a US Senator, I would vote in favor of allowing the states this freedom; but whether or not California decides to do so cannot be set by federal policy. As a Californian, I do not favor increasing the sales tax. However, I would favor applying a lower sales tax to all goods, whether sold over the internet or in physical stores. That would eliminate unfairness in taxing only goods sold in physical stores, which has resulted in loss of retail jobs in our state.

Internet Security

What is your position on Google's security breach that occurred in China?

Outrageous. Apparently authored by China, or at least agencies supported by the Chinese government. Would you vote for sanctions against China if Google or any other Internet / technology company continues to be attacked?

Yes. China has to know we're serious.

What is your position on Information sharing concerning Internet privacy? Should U.S. intelligence agencies be allowed to investigate its citizens accessing information that is housed or stored at service providers like Google, Myspace, Facebook without a warrant?

I am a vigilant protector of privacy over the internet, and oppose searches and seizures without a warrant, except in the most special circumstances of imminent threat.

Update: Chuck Devore responds;

Internet Privacy - what is your General position on Privacy Law and Information sharing

Arrangements or changes should be disclosed by the companies sharing the information.

Internet Taxation - Should state taxes be applied to Internet commerce?

States have the right to collect taxes on purchases. States wishing to enter into compacts with other states to collect for each other may do so. HOWEVER, I do not and would not support any such tax hike or extension to Internet sales.

Internet Security

What is your position on Google's security breach that occurred in China?

(Ed: No specific answer given)

Would you vote for sanctions against China if Google or any other Internet / technology company continues to be attacked?

The unelected Communist Party leadership in China is threatened by a free Internet. Attacks on U.S. communications companies are hostile acts and should have consequences.

What is your position on Information sharing concerning Internet privacy? Should U.S. intelligence agencies be allowed to investigate its citizens accessing information that is housed or stored at service providers like Google, Myspace, Facebook without a warrant?

Intelligence gathering on U.S. citizens should be accompanied by a warrant so as to comply with Fourth Amendment protections "against unreasonable searches and seizures."

Update: Chuck Devore has been added to the poll with 4 votes already tabulated for the other candidates

[poll id="39"]

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