What Obama's re-election means for IT

While technology wasn”t addressed a whole lot during the presidential campaign, experts say Obama”s re-election will have an impact on IT – particularly in the areas of cyber security, privacy and piracy.

What can IT expect from the White House over the next four years? It”s unlikely the administration”s technology agenda will change much during Obama”s second term, given that the most pressing issues — cyber security, online privacy and electronic piracy — remain unresolved.

However, in order to get Congress to act, the president may be forced to come at these issues differently than before. Since lawmakers haven”t been able to craft bills that are acceptable to both parties, the White House could take some matters into its own hands.

Here”s a recap of where the government stands on these hot button topics:

Cyber security

After Congress failed to pass the Obama-backed Cybersecurity Act this summer, the White House began drafting an executive order to get the ball rolling on new cyber security regulations.

A  leaked in September, and in its early form, it appears similar to the Cybersecurity Act. Like that controversial bill, the draft would allow the Department of Homeland Security to create new IT security rules that would apply to private companies supplying the nation”s “critical infrastructure.”

While the executive order will almost certainly look different if and when it”s signed, one element in the draft that alarmed some observers is the wide range of companies that could be designated as critical infrastructure. The order lists 16 sectors falling under that category, including everything from “Communications” and “Information Technology” to “Commercial Facilities” and “Critical Manufacturing.”

It”s not clear when more work on the executive order will be done, but if new attempts to pass the Cybersecurity Act fail, it could be given greater priority.

Privacy

Federal law enforcement agencies, private companies and advocacy groups are tussling over how to update U.S. privacy law to account for email, cell phone communications and electronic data storage.

The target? The 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act or ECPA. Online businesses like Amazon, eBay and Google, in addition to advocacy groups such as the ACLU and Americans for Tax Reform, want the law to require police to obtain warrants before they can access private communications (i.e., email accounts and cloud-based storage accounts) and track their locations via their personal cell phones.

The Justice Department says requiring search warrants in these instances would have a negative impact on investigations.

The White House hasn”t formally weighed in on this issue yet, but expect the administration to face increasing pressure to broker a solution.

Piracy

Two bills designed to tackle electronic piracy — SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PROTECT IP (the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) — faced strong opposition in 2012 due to their overly broad language and poor wording and were pronounced dead in the water.

Since the bills” defeat, the White House has called for a renewed effort to draft legislation similar to SOPA that addresses electronic copyright infringement, especially from websites located overseas.

After SOPA and Protect IP were shot down, the White House issued a statement saying “combating online infringement” is a top priority.

It”s likely Hollywood — the driving force behind the campaign to enact legislation to protect intellectual property rights and U.S. economic interests in the online marketplace — will continue to exert pressure on Congress and the President as well.

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