#infosec | #RSAC: Realize the Harms and Benefits of Technology and Create Policies to Enable the Public


Speaking at the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) summit at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, Alex Stamos, adjunct professor at Stanford University’s Freeman-Spogli Institute, said that issues and decisions made by technology companies have angered people.

Stamos, who previously served as CISO of both Facebook and Yahoo, said that once he stepped out of those roles and “out of constant emergencies” he could see the bigger picture.

He said that “tradeoffs from a policy perspective are poorly understood by the public and usually go back to the engineering adage of do you want it done correctly, cheaply, or quickly—pick 1 of 3.” Stamos said that this is a basic problem of society, as people say that they don’t want companies looking at their data, but to stop bad things happening you need to see bad things. “Politicians say companies have to find the bad guys, but you cannot have two things.”

Another issue Stamos highlighted is the balance that technology companies have for “solving societal ills,” as he pointed out that technology companies provide platforms while “every bad thing [that] happened [was] done by people.”

He said that companies have to “embrace transparency and make decisions in a transparent manner.” However, the line has to be drawn around bullying and harassment, as “nothing has changed since the last election.”

Stamos said that Google, Facebook, and Twitter came up with policies on political advertising “in closed rooms with no transparency,” and these will be the rules that the 2020 election will be fought on.

He recommended that the tech industry adopt a regulatory framework similar to what Germany did regarding what speech is allowed online, but should consider how this can be adopted by countries with reduced democratic freedoms. “Or you end up with tech companies who are happy if they get regulated if they can make money, as most people who use the internet don’t live in democracies, or if they do, it is with reduced free speech.”

Stamos concluded by saying that we “have to realize that technology has made changes in good and bad ways” and take responsibility for that.

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