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Marching Orders 2016: Watch the Politics of Data Privacy

Editor's Note: Throughout the month of January, we'll be running installments of Marching Orders, our annual collection of advice and predictions from channel luminaries about what to do and what to expect in the year ahead. For this entry, we invited Chris Paoli, who covers security for the 1105 Media Enterprise Computing Group, to provide his view of the most important security issue for 2016.

The topic of surveillance, specifically U.S. government-operated surveillance operations, will be a dominating talking point among presidential hopefuls ahead of Election Day this November. In the first presidential election since the Snowden leaks began in 2013, and in the wake of mass terrorist shootings in Paris, France and San Bernardino, Calif., national security and the related privacy debate are poised to become daily mainstays for news outlets.

With the December passage of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 -- which, in part, could allow for some warrantless surveillance actions by the federal government in the name of national security, while opening information-sharing channels between private IT companies and the government -- the respective main party front-runners provided their stances on balancing security and user privacy. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has called for an increase in surveillance, and called on tech companies to take a larger role in national defense.

"We're going to need help from Facebook, and from YouTube, and from Twitter," Clinton said on ABC News in December. "They cannot permit the recruitment and the actual direction of attacks, or the celebration of violence by this sophisticated Internet user."

Leading Republican candidate Donald Trump also is in favor of stepping up surveillance and other security measures, arguing in November that both Muslim mosques and possible incoming Syrian refugees be monitored around the clock. During an interview with Yahoo, Trump discussed the privacy payoff of increased surveillance, saying, "Some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule."

As the candidates expand on their positions on the main stage ahead of the general election, look for Silicon Valley to factor in the debate through policy updates and changes. The end of 2015 saw many tech companies, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter, revising their privacy policies to include commitments to alert users if and when their data has been targeted by federal law enforcement agencies for surveillance. Over the course of the next 12 months, I predict other major players, including Apple and Amazon, to fall in line with their own privacy policy changes.

IT will have quite a few hard decisions over the next 12 months. Besides evaluating which candidate aligns closest with their beliefs on the role of government in security and surveillance on a personal level, shops may want to take a look at their cloud providers to see if they are doing all they can to keep their data secure -- whether that's from traditional outside threats or state-sponsored data access.

More Marching Orders 2016:

Posted by Chris Paoli on January 07, 2016 at 10:43 AM


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