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Hillary Clinton tells tech audience: I'm thinking of running for president

She's not an official candidate for the 2016 run for the White House, but the former Secretary of State sounds as if she's close to stepping into the ring.

Hillary Clinton says she's thinking about a run for the White House James Martin/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO -- No, she didn't announce plans Tuesday to run in 2016. But Hillary Clinton -- today a private citizen, tomorrow, still anyone's guess -- took one step closer to making the news official.

"I am thinking about it," said Clinton.

"The hard questions aren't do you want to be president, or can you win," said Clinton, who appeared here as the headliner at a conference sponsored by marketing automation software company Marketo. "The hard question is why. Why would you want to do this and what would you offer that could make a difference."

The former first lady and US secretary of state, has not publicly declared her interest in running for president in 2016 but is widely considered a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination if she decides to compete.

No question about Clinton's star appeal. About 6,000 people registered for the conference and it seems most of them showed up to hear her, with the latecomers ushered into the adjacent overflow room.

Although Clinton spent the majority of her time on stage talking about social and economic issues, particularly as they related to high technology, the crowd came to hear her talk politics -- and they didn't go home disappointed.

"I would be the first to say that we're having a political period of dysfunction. i was remembering seeing it from afar as secretary of state," she said. "You had to ask what kind of country did they really want?"

For now, though, Clinton said she does not plan "to make a decision for a while," saying she is "actually enjoying my life...seeing my friends and going on long walks and playing with my dog."

"I danced around that pretty well, didn't I," she said, drawing peals of laughter from the audience.

And if there is a future run for the presidency, Clinton flicked at the technology themes which might feature in a campaign.

"I remember back in the early 1990s when my husband was elected president, we were worrying about how to get the economy going. The power of the Internet wasn't just the dotcoms," Clinton said. "Even more important were the productivity gains that computing brought to all kinds of industries that weren't thought high tech...that is the kind of innovation we need more of today."

She also pointed to the State Department's championing of social media during her tenure as one of its achievements under her stewardship.

"I made it my personal mission to stand up for Internet freedom," she said, adding that "the freedom to connect is a universal right. It should be protected and respected."

Clinton acknowledged the difficulty she faced navigating the department to embrace more Internet-centric diplomacy using social-media tools. "When we went to Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and more, a lot of people said, 'what are you doing?' I said what it means is that we're actually communicating."

Pointing out how civilians in Iran and Egypt used social media to protest their government's policies, Clinton later described the Internet as "the public sphere" of 21st century "and we have to keep it free."

During a 22-minute-long prepared speech and a follow-up Q&A on stage, Clinton similarly talked up the need to promote clean power, cloud computing, and reform immigration, which she said would work to America's advantage if more people with special talents are allowed in.

"I'm disappointed that (immigration reform) is still a contentious issue. It shouldn't be. It doesn't deserve to be," she said. "It's that kind of disappointment that really drives frustration and it's across the board."

"It's not just the right thing to do," Clinton said cuing up a big applause line. "It's one of our competitive advantages around the world."