Five tech themes disturbingly absent from the presidential election

Summary:Technology and IT infrastructure policy discussion has been virtually absent from two campaigns that have relied heavily on technology and IT infrastructure to run their campaigns.

If you've been watching the presidential debates recently, you may have noticed that some key issues were absent from discussion.

No questions were asked by any debate moderator about technology or the Internet. Vrtually no mention was made by either candidate about technology issues (although President Obama did toss out the phrase "cybersecurity" near the end of the last debate).

These issues are also disturbingly absent from the candidates Web sites as well. If you visit Barack Obama's site, you'll see the following issues grid:


Likewise, if you visit Mitt Romney's site, you'll see the following list of issues:

2012-10-24-romney issues

Here are five themes that were absent from the debates, and barely discussed during the election by the candidates or press.

Tech Theme #1: Net neutrality

I am a strong proponent of net neutrality. I believe that all traffic on the Internet needs to be treated equally, and if carriers and ISPs can begin sculpting content, all the wonderful voices we now get to hear might be squelched in favor of a few big-money-backed Web sites and perspectives.

There is exactly one mention of net neutrality on the Web site, found in his Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth. The only real mention is the following quote:

The Federal Communications Commission imposed network neutrality regulations (defying both the legislature and judiciary) that restrict how Internet service providers manage the digital transmissions flowing through their networks.

The site lists 679 mentions of net neutrality, but many of them appear to be forum posts. What we know is that the Obama Administration FCC has passed partial net neutrality, essentially protecting hard-wired lines, but leaving mobile open to unrestricted traffic sculpting.

Since mobile traffic is clearly the way of the future, it's not clear that the current FCC limited protections for network traffic will serve us into the future.

I give both candidates a low-to-failing grade.

Tech Theme #2: Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity gets four Google results on, and 459 on Again, many of the Obama results appear to be discussion boards.

In Fact Sheet: The Romney Plan for an American Century, Romney has two strong mentions of cybersecurity. He recommends an initiative to develop a unified cybersecurity strategy to defend against cyberattacks.

During the Obama administration, President Obama has taken similar measures. Unfortunately, the various cybersecurity bills that would unify America's cyberdefense strategy have gotten mired in politics and the very real problems of privacy vs. security and mandates vs. security.

Both candidates are clearly aware of the problem, both clearly understand something has to be done, and both clearly have to contend with Congress.

I give both candidates a passing grade, but only provisionally. I give Congress its usual failing grade.

Next up... Privacy, Patriot Act, and IT infrastructure...


Topics: Government, Government : US, Security


In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.