How Will Cybersecurity Influence the 2020 US Election Cycle?

The air is undeniably tense surrounding the next United States presidential race. Not only does the Land of the Free currently have one of the most controversial commanders-in-chief in its history, but the issues at stake are being approached from more partisan, polarised angles than ever before. Whether it’s women’s rights, the tax plan, or guns and public health, you cannot deny the stiff atmosphere in politics today.

There’s a topic that’s become a bigger issue than it was four years ago, however: data protection. Cybersecurity is already a hot topic in the media. Of course, data security was previously a concern to the people who knew a thing or two about it, but the public was largely focused on other issues.

But now, cybersecurity has become a public cause of concern. With the emerging news in the last few years about Russia’s attempts to tamper with the 2016 election, the American people are skeptical like never before. This begs a few questions: What role is cybersecurity going to play in our upcoming presidential debates? How will it be discussed in the media? And how will the public come down on these important issues?

Regarding Russia

Trump Putin election news Ethiopia Eritrea | HeadStuff.orgThere is presently enormous public concern over the possibility of election interference via cyber means. But after news broke of possible interference by Russia in the race that got Donald Trump elected, it’s become one of the most important issues in American politics. It was a bit humiliating for Republicans, who made a big deal over 2016 Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton using an unsecure server for her emails during her time as secretary of state.

In the face of this cultural concern, USA Today published an opinion piece entitled “Dear 2020 candidates, cybersecurity chief is your most important hire. Don’t screw it up.” The writer, Jeff Kosseff, noted hackings on both sides of the 2016 election:

“Every presidential candidate is on notice that they are targets of sophisticated state-sponsored hackers who are looking to expose their confidential information and cause chaos before, during and after the 2020 election … Hack our election once, shame on you. Hack our election twice, shame on us.”

While the investigation into the Russia hacks continues, it has put the public on edge. Without a doubt, they will be brought up during the next election cycle; however, it would be surprising if Republicans address the issue aggressively, as their repeated defensiveness surrounding the issue has been telling. Still, you can expect to at least hear it mentioned in the debates.

Net Neutrality

After the election of Donald Trump, many of the net neutrality policies previously approved by the FCC were repealed. Your private information is now in the hands of internet providers who are able to sell it to third parties for advertisement purposes and market research. The repeals put control over your data in the hands of the states — not the federal government.

Republicans at large argued that this repeal was a win for state’s rights and the free market. However, given the oligopolistic nature of residential broadband ISPs (AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon control the vast majority of the market), it’s difficult to overstate the importance of maintaining net neutrality legislation.

Without it, these major players are incentivised to throttle or block access to specific services or websites from competitors. They can simply be shut out through such conduct, creating unfair market conditions for businesses.

Further, consumer privacy is at risk without this legislation. Section 222 of Title II stipulates that carriers must “protect the confidentiality of [consumers’] proprietary information from unauthorised use and unlawful disclosure,” as noted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Now, Democrats are pushing back on this repeal, claiming that this is an unethical invasion of privacy. Reuters reported this week:

“Democrats in the U.S. Congress plan to unveil legislation on Wednesday to reinstate “net neutrality” rules that were repealed by the Trump administration in December 2017, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. Pelosi told lawmakers in a letter that House Democrats, who won control of the chamber in the November 2018 elections, would work with their colleagues in the U.S. Senate to pass the Save The Internet Act.”

Net neutrality is an important issue to voters, and as such, it may influence how the election plays out. Will the Save The Internet Act actually do what its name implies? We will have to wait and see. One thing is for sure, however: The political world has never been more polarised on internet legislation.

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Opinions Will Be Highly Polarised

We live in divided times. Rather than deciding things for themselves, the public is thinking in opposition to the other side of the aisle. It’s beyond party-line agreement; it has been taken to the extreme, where public opinion is simply reactionary, often without an understanding of any broader context.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s certainly getting worse. Opportunistic politicians, eager to pander to reactionary and single-issue voters, will say and promise whatever is needed to secure more votes. They’ll continue pushing forth uninformed legislation to garner popularity within their respective party. The other party will continue to be incensed by these maneuvers and present reactionary rhetoric. And so it goes.

Still, there may be hope with some new eyes on the entire situation. The 2020 presidential debates could potentially have more eyes than the 2016 debates, which had 84 million viewers. It’s possible that, with new participants and voters, reason will triumph in small pockets of the country.

However, when it comes to cybersecurity specifically, it’s hard to know if any big changes will occur. If Democrats continue addressing the matter, and more extensive action is taken regarding the Russia probes, there may be hope for the future of net neutrality.