Glimmers of hope from the GOP and Dem platforms

As the Republicans and Democrats trot out their presidential candidates and air their platforms, those of us concerned about privacy and net freedom have some cause for optimism. If nothing else, both party’s platforms pay lip service, at least, to the promotion of privacy. The GOP platform even mentions drones, something the Democratic platform sees fit to omit. Here are the relevant passages from each:

Republican Platform [click here to read the whole thing]

Protecting Internet Freedom

The Internet has unleashed innovation, enabled growth, and inspired freedom more rapidly and extensively than any other technological advance in human history. Its independence is its power. The Internet offers a communications system uniquely free from government intervention. We will remove regulatory barriers that protect outdated technologies and business plans from innovation and competition, while preventing legacy regulation from interfering with new and disruptive technologies such as mobile delivery of voice video data as they become crucial components of the Internet ecosystem. We will resist any effort to shift control away from the successful multi-stakeholder approach of Internet governance and toward governance by international or other intergovernmental organizations. We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach and that individuals retain the right to control the use of their data by third parties; the only way to safeguard or improve these systems is through the private sector.

We insist that there should be no regulation of political speech on the Internet. By the same token, we oppose governmental censorship of speech through the so-called Fairness Doctrine or by government enforcement of speech codes, free speech zones, or other forms of “political correctness” on campus.

Affirming “the right of the people to be secure in their houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” we support pending legislation to prevent unwarranted or unreasonable governmental intrusion through the use of aerial surveillance or flyovers on U.S. soil, with the exception of patrolling our national borders. All security measures and police actions should be viewed through the lens of the Fourth Amendment; for if we trade liberty for security, we shall have neither.


Democratic Platform [click here to read the whole thing]

President Obama is strongly committed to protecting an open Internet that fosters investment, innovation, creativity, consumer choice, and free speech, unfettered by censorship or undue violations of privacy.


Of course, neither platform could be considered grade-A as far as civil libertarians and privacy advocates are concerned. As noted above, the Democrats include no references whatsoever to President Obama’s intensification of “targeted killing” via drone strikes despite the considerable role that practice has played in his foreign policy. While the GOP advocates here for reigning in drone flyovers at home, its platform similarly remains oddly quiet on the constitutionality of “death by remote control.”

The Blues also included quite a bit of kowtowing to the MPAA and advocates of draconian patent/IP enforcement. (The MPAA has applauded both parties for their obedience to patent orthodoxy.) And for all the GOP’s railing against infringing First Amendment rights, there’s this gem on flag burning, that supreme threat to our nation’s security/intellectual purity:

The symbol of our constitutional unity, to which we all pledge allegiance, is the flag of the United States of America. By whatever legislative method is most feasible, Old Glory should be given legal protection against desecration. We condemn decisions by activist judges to deny children the opportunity to say the Pledge of Allegiance in its entirety, including “Under God,” in public schools and encourage States to promote the pledge. We condemn the actions of those who deny our children the means by which to show respect for our great country and the constitutional principles represented by our flag.

As the adage goes, actions speak louder than words scribbled out during an election year. And the fact that privacy advocates have to choose between two parties that both have less-than-stellar records as far as Internet freedom (SOPA started out as pretty bipartisan) or civil liberties (the “no” votes on NDAA were equally slim on both side of the aisle) isn’t encouraging. But these platform planks are tangible commitments that constituents can point to as expectations. They are also foundations to be built upon.

We’ll need wide support to protect the liberties we hold dear. These platform planks are glimmers of hope, however fleeting.

About David Matson