Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a Tea Party favorite, appears to be trying to play a more assertive role in tech issues on Capitol Hill, indicating during a speech Thursday that his free-market views on most issues extend to tech as well.
Speaking before the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, Paul touched on many hot-button tech issues including cybersecurity, Internet regulation, privacy and piracy. He indicated that while he may support the importance of for example protecting intellectual property rights, he opposes heavy-handed government intervention.
The speech was billed as a discussion of Internet freedom, but Rand discussed a wide range of issues including cybersecurity, which the Senate debated this week. He said he does not favor legislation that would impose a lot of government mandates, saying passing a law won't necessary prevent every cyber threat. "We may pass an immense cybersecurity bill, and something may still happen," Paul said.
However, he said he would support providing companies with an antitrust exemption so they can share information and also would back allowing government agencies to share some cyber-security information with the private sector.
On the broader issue of Internet freedom, Paul said he opposes efforts by some countries to allow the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nation's body that sets international telecom rules, to exert more authority over the Internet. He and his father, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, have reportedly signed on to an alternate view of Internet freedom, which opposes government efforts to regulate Internet freedom through such policies as net neutrality.
While he didn't discuss it Thursday, Rand Paul has backed efforts to block the Federal Communications Commission from implementing net neutrality rules, which bar broadband providers from discriminating against Internet content or applications.
Paul also spoke about the importance of privacy of individual information and his concerns that Fourth Amendment protections are being eroded. Still, he said he opposes efforts by the Federal Trade Commission to sanction companies that violate their privacy promises. Instead, he said would rather see consumers fight companies in court for breach of contract. He added that while it may be hard for an individual to take on a major company like Google, consumers can band together through class-action lawsuits. "I like it better that way than this nebulous idea of privacy enforced" by a government agency, Paul said.
He also discussed this year's battle over two anti-piracy bills, known in the House as the Stop Online Piracy Act and in the Senate as the Protect IP Act. Unlike other libertarians, he said he supports intellectual property rights but opposed both SOPA and Protect IP. He and other critics argued at the time that the legislation's proposed remedies to combat piracy and counterfeiting on foreign websites went too far and could harm the Internet.