The U.S. presidential candidates on technology, privacy issues

The U.S. presidential candidates’ positions on technology, privacy issues
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Where Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Donald Trump stand on U.S. citizens’ privacy, open source software usage and Edward Snowden


With the general election creeping ever closer here in the United States, now seemed like a good time to get an official stance from the four presidential candidates who will be on the ballot about critical issues around technology and privacy.

I narrowed my list of questions for them down to just four (my original list was around 12) in order to make this easy for each campaign to answer. And each campaign was asked the exact same questions—with no variation whatsoever.

Even so, the only campaign to respond to me in any real way was Jill Stein’s. The Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson and Donald Trump campaigns declined to provide concrete stances or clarifications—though I did get some helpful links from a Johnson surrogate.

As such, I took a little time to try to find existing quotes and the positions of the other candidates on the topics, which was harder than it should have been. Whenever I needed to include my own words in order to explain their views, I put those words in brackets to make it clear they are not direct quotes from the candidates.

If I was unable to find a position/statement from a candidate on a question (there are a few of those moments), I would love to hear if anyone else is able to. This is all about getting accurate information about the candidates and their positions on tech/security issues, not about spinning things to make one candidate look better than another. Along those lines, if the individual campaigns would like to make any clarifications or corrections to this, reach out to me and I will gladly post an update.

Also note: The candidates’ responses are in alphabetical order based on their last names. 


Lunduke: What is your stance on end-to-end encryption for private citizens?

Clinton: “Encryption of mobile communications presents a particularly tough problem. We should take the concerns of law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals seriously. They have warned that impenetrable encryption may prevent them from accessing terrorist communications and preventing a future attack.” – from TechDirt.

[It should be noted that this article points out that the Clinton campaign itself relies on encryption but does not believe other citizens should be allowed to.]

Johnson: “Security is important, for sure. But throwing away our right to privacy has the opposite effect of protecting our freedom. That’s why the Fourth Amendment says that the government can’t snoop into our private lives unless they have a good reason to do so. Besides, is the government more likely to secure our freedom by collecting trillions of bits of unmanageable data or by identifying real threats and focusing their efforts on properly warranted searches?” – from

Stein: “End-to-end encryption should be an internet standard, just like SSL for financial transactions.” 

Trump: [I found it difficult to figure out what Donald Trump’s position on this issue is. He doesn’t appear to have made any sort of direct statement. But he is a supporter of bulk data collection of U.S. citizens, which suggests he would be against end-to-end encryption (which makes that data collection more difficult).]

Lunduke: What is your stance on open source software usage within state and federal government agencies?

Clinton: “The federal government spends nearly $90 billion in information technology, but the American taxpayer doesn’t get $90 billion in value. Hillary will make it easier for the federal government to find, try and buy innovative technology—including open source software. She would also break large federal IT projects into smaller pieces, so it will be easier to stop projects that are over budget or failing to meet user needs, and also more feasible for small and medium-sized businesses to support public service projects.” – from

Johnson: [I could find no time that Johnson has mentioned the words “open source,” “free software” or any other related phrases.]

Stein: “We are in favor of open source software usage within state and federal government agencies as long as regular audits are performed to protect vital data from being unknowingly transmitted. Using open source software is an excellent way for government agencies to save money. Ideally, agencies should contribute any code customizations back to Free/Libre Open Source Software projects.”

Trump: [I was unable to find any time that Donald Trump referenced open source software in any way.]

Lunduke: Do you agree with the ACLU and Human Rights Watch that Edward Snowden (and other whistleblowers) should be pardoned?

Clinton: “Because he took valuable information and went first to China and then is now under the protection of Vladimir Putin, I think that raises a lot of questions about everything else he did. So, I do not think he should escape having to return and answer for what he has done.” – from 

Johnson: “Based on what I know about Edward Snowden, I would pardon Edward Snowden.” – from 

Stein: “Yes. We would pardon Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, Jeffrey Sterling, Julian Assange and other whistleblowers.”

Trump: “I think Snowden is a terrible threat. I think he’s a terrible traitor. And you know what we used to do in the good old days when we were a strong country — you know what we used to do to traitors, right?” – from

Lunduke: What is your stance on the current activities of the NSA in regard to surveillance and data gathering of U.S. citizens?

Clinton: On NSA’s spying power, Clinton said, “... how much is too much? And how much is not enough? That's the hard part. I think if Americans felt like, number one, you're not going after my personal information, the content of my personal information. But I do want you to get the bad guys because I don't want them to use social media, to use communications devices invented right here to plot against us. So, let's draw the line. And I think it's hard if everybody's in their corner. So, I resist saying it has to be this or that. I want us to come to a better balance.” – from

[It should also be noted that Clinton voted for, and voted to re-authorize, the Patriot act.]

Johnson: "The NSA is a complete executive order as it is under Truman. We could turn those satellites on what is supposed to be the enemy. The fact that they’re pointed on us right now, doesn’t that cause everyone a bit of concern? It should. Look, there’s due process for spying, but due process is not blanket collection of all of our data." 

Asked if he could eliminate the NSA via executive order: "Apparently. I’m waiting for someone to prove me wrong. This is what I’ve been told.” – from

Stein: “The ubiquitous surveillance conducted by the NSA erodes fundamental rights to privacy and free association, while furnishing a gigantic surveillance-industrial complex with taxpayer dollars. The warrantless internet and phone dragnets were ineffective in providing predictive value for anti-terrorist initiatives, as there was simply too much data to filter in any meaningful way, and instead were used as a repository of potential evidence (gathered without a warrant) only after an accusation had been made.

“We have become the most surveilled population in history, and the potential for abuse is enormous. The way to stop terrorism is to stop funding and arming terrorists and countries that support terrorism and to end U.S. wars and foreign policies that create blowback—not through unconstitutional spying that treats every cell phone and computer user as a suspected enemy of the state.”

Trump: “Well, I tend to err on the side of security, I must tell you, and I’ve been there for longer than you would think. But, you know, when you have people that are beheading if you’re a Christian and frankly for lots of other reasons, when you have the world looking at us and would like to destroy us as quickly as possible, I err on the side of security. And so that’s the way it is, that’s the way I’ve been, and some people like that, frankly, and some people don’t like that.” – from

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