Hillary Clinton talks NSA and privacy, data security, tech jobs in San Francisco

"I'm not an expert on software-defined storage or the intricacies of cloud computing," Clinton quipped.

SAN FRANCISCO---Privacy and security are in a necessary but inevitable tension, reflected former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while speaking at data storage and software provider Nexenta's OpenSDx Summit on Thursday.

Culture clashes on privacy; Silicon Valley, the government and you

Culture clashes on privacy; Silicon Valley, the government and you

Proposing this debate has been going on in the United States since the days of the Founding Fathers (with Clinton trading out "privacy" for "liberty"), Clinton observed how concerns over privacy reached a fever pitch following the revelations about the National Security Agency last year.

"There's no doubt we may have gone too far in a number of areas, and those [practices] have to be rethought and rebalanced," Clinton said about the surveillance liberties given to government agencies following the attacks on September 11.

At the same time, Clinton countered that we live in a world with a lot of "bad actors" who have access to the same technology as ordinary Internet users. By extension (and with a little work), those bad actors could also have access to the same sensitive data.

"I think it's fair to say the Government, the NSA, didn't so far as we know cross legal lines, but they came right up and sat on them," said Clinton. "It could perhaps mean their data was being collected in metadata configurations, and that was somehow threatening. We have to be constantly asking ourselves what legal authorities we gave to the NSA and others and make sure people know what the tradeoffs are."

Clinton lamented that "probably the most frustrating part of this whole debate" is trying to convey that the United States is not the only country trying to manage and balance these conflicts. She explained how on diplomatic visits to China and Russia, for example, she and her staff couldn't take any personal devices off the plane in fear of the devices being hacked.

"We need to make it clear to other countries that our technology companies are not part of our government," Clinton said.

"They're so good," Clinton laughed, speculating the devices and stored data would be breached within a "nanosecond."

Clinton also emphasized the Federal Government does not use personal data for commercial purposes -- insisting other governments do.

"We need to make it clear to other countries that our technology companies are not part of our government," Clinton said. "I know this may sound a little too hopeful, but there needs to be a global pact about surveillance."

Clinton praised how many tech companies in the Bay Area are pioneering new technologies from education to healthcare and beyond, telling the packed ballroom of a few hundred high-tech executives to think how about experts here in Silicon Valley fixed Healthcare.gov, making the synergy possibilities obvious.

Admitting the U.S. Government is "woefully behind" on upgrading to next-generation technology, Clinton noted that under her tenure at the State Department, it was difficult for employees to even have access to a BlackBerry.

"I'm not an expert on software-defined storage or the intricacies of cloud computing," Clinton quipped.

But Clinton insisted she has learned enough to understand the value of these advancements, advising we must make smart choices and investments inclusive as well.

"Too many American families are losing ground and losing help," Clinton remarked. "We've lost the historic link between productivity gains and wage gains that people can actually see in their paychecks and feel in their wallets."

Clinton reminded that many Americans are still feeling the pains and struggles brought on by the 2008 recession.

"Too many American families are losing ground and losing help," Clinton remarked. "We've lost the historic link between productivity gains and wage gains that people can actually see in their paychecks and feel in their wallets."

The Internet revolution helped the United States bounce back and reach unprecedented growth during the 1990s, described the former First Lady. It wasn't just the dot-coms, Clinton argued, but the gains the Internet brought to all kinds of industries not necessarily considered "high tech."

Clinton postulated cloud computing is doing the same thing today. Championing the business potential of big data as well, Clinton cited that the United States is home to one third of all data in the entire world.

"That's a major competitive advantage," Clinton asserted, highlighting how GPS and weather data has already benefited business and productivity gains for everyone from "farmers to truckers."

Clinton added that given this recession, there should "be an extra effort made to fill jobs with people already here" -- native-born or immigrant, regardless. Then, she suggested, is the time to expand programs for H-1B visa workers.

"There has to be some sensitivity to that, but it's doable," Clinton posited.

While touching briefly upon the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. this month, Clinton stressed the need for the tech world's innovation and creating to achieve a better world.

Secretary Clinton has made numerous appearances in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley over the last several months, feeding rumors about fundraising for a potential 2016 presidential campaign bid.

In April , the former New York senator also stopped by Marketo’s customer conference in San Francisco.

Clinton explained over the course of less than half an hour how she sees marketing driving innovation and the role it plays in promoting both economic prosperity as well as diplomacy.

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