Joe Biden’s decision to appoint California Senator Kamala Harris as running mate in the quest to overthrow President Trump means the next vice president could not only be the first black and Asian American woman on a presidential ticket to the United States – historical milestones by any means – but also a Californian who made a career in the front yard of the tech industry.
Born in Oakland, Harris served as a District Attorney for San Francisco and then Attorney General of California before being elected to the Senate in 2016. And while the new running mate is likely to bring a better understanding of the tech industry on the run. , its positions on how a Democratic administration should approach the most powerful tech companies during an unprecedented time of scrutiny aren’t exactly clear.
Harris drew considerable support from leaders in Silicon Valley in his bid for the Democratic nomination, overtaking other candidates in donations of employees of large technology companies early. While that support has changed throughout the race, and many tech donors have backed multiple nominees, the industry is likely to be happy with Biden’s selection.
Notably, Harris was elected Attorney General of California in 2010 and served two terms, overseeing the tech industry during much of its most explosive growth – a measure that is likely proving to be more meaningful in gauging its position towards regulating the tech industry as the things it says along the campaign trail.
Still, it was arguably a simpler time for Silicon Valley, and a time before current searing conversations about issues such as election interference, wars of disinformation, and antitrust enforcement.
Play it safe
As the primary developed and then rival Elizabeth Warren carved out a critical posture vis-à-vis big technologyHarris has rarely addressed the thorny issues surrounding the regulation of the tech industry. During a October debateHarris avoided a question about concerns about second-order effects if large tech companies were to be dismantled, instead redirecting themselves to the safer political territory of Trump’s Twitter account. Dodging larger points about technology liability, Harris called on Twitter to suspend the president’s account for breaking his rules, calling the issue a “matter of safety and corporate responsibility.”
Earlier this year, in response to a simple question Asking if companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon should be taken down, Harris again ducked, while signaling that she was concerned about how these companies treated user data.
“I think technology companies need to be regulated in a way that ensures that the American consumer can be confident that their privacy is not compromised,” Harris said. Harris also expressed concerns about user privacy in a Twitter feed 2018.
“Millions of Americans have no idea how much data Facebook collects, from tracking their location and IP address to tracking their activity on other websites,” she wrote.
“In the real world, it would be like someone watching what you do, where you go, for how long, and who you are with every day. For the most part, that would look like an invasion of privacy.
A focus on Facebook
In other tech reviews, Harris has focused primarily on Facebook, denouncing his role in spreading Russian disinformation during the 2016 presidential race and expressing concerns about the way the company handles data. that she collects.
When given the chance to press Mark Zuckerberg in person, Harris focused on the company’s handling of misuse of Cambridge Analytica data by its users. More recently, Harris co-wrote a letter to Facebook with Colorado Senator Michael Bennett after the largely unflattering results of the audit were released, pressing the company on electoral concerns.
“Although the company has recently shown a willingness to curb misinformation regarding COVID-19, it has not shown the same determination to face voter suppression and learn from the 2016 election,” wrote senators. “We share listeners’ concern that Facebook has failed to use the tools and resources at its disposal to more vigorously fight voter suppression and protect civil rights.”
Despite the harsh words, Harris appears to be on good terms with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who congratulated her on her appointment on Tuesday. In 2013, Harris apparently contributed to the A promotion effort around Sandberg’s now ubiquitous book Bend over, sharing its own story. Harris also spoke at a cyberbullying event held at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park in 2015 and the two were photography on stage together.
Antitrust on the back burner?
While we have a handful of public statements from Harris on his take on technology, there are plenty more we don’t know. How she positioned herself in relation to other candidates during the primary might not fully reflect the kind of priorities she would bring to the vice-presidency, and we’ll likely learn more about those in the coming days.
Right now there are many, many crises on the table for the next administration. While big tech regulation looked like a huge campaign issue in the pre-pandemic 2020 political landscape, conversations about police brutality and the devastating failure of the United States to contain the coronavirus are now in the foreground. It remains to be seen whether issues with antitrust regulation and the power-grabbing of technology will make it go away, and there are plenty of national five-alarm fires to put out in the meantime.
While his potential position as the country’s next vice president doesn’t mean Harris would be tasked with shaping tech policy or leading antitrust efforts, his deep ties to the geographic center of tech could prove to be important in one. Biden presidency and its priorities.
Despite a few question marks around his political approaches, Harris is a known quantity for the tech industry – someone who understands Silicon Valley and who, based on his background, does not seem eager to confront. the biggest companies in the industry despite some recent tough talk. Whatever technology policies emerge from a Biden / Harris campaign, the new running mate is connected to technology in a more meaningful way than any other candidate instead. That alone is something to watch out for.