Technology Voter Guide 2008: Bob Barr

Libertarian presidential candidate, who wants to keep Net connections tax-free, says Real ID threatens people's privacy and places an undue burden on states.

Declan McCullagh
Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
5 min read

In the last few days before November 4, taxes and the economy have become the most pressing topics of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Bob Barr

But knowing where the candidates stand on high-tech topics like digital copyright, surveillance, and Internet regulation can be revealing, which is why we've put together this 2008 Technology Voters' Guide.

Included are answers to questions we asked presidential candidates. We received replies from Republican Sen. John McCain, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, and independent candidate Ralph Nader.

Read on for responses from Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, or check out the rest of CNET News' election coverage.

Q: Politicians have been talking for years about the need for high-speed Internet access. Should this be accomplished primarily through deregulation and market forces, or should the federal government give out grants or subsidies, or enact new laws?
Barr: The development of high-speed Internet services should be left to the marketplace. Government subsidies and government-provided services almost always are both inefficient and politicized.

Moreover, the government rarely gives money without attaching strings. We all are better off with a less regulated and thus more flexible Internet, as well as an Internet more insulated from government control. As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law in 2001 and 2002, I led the effort to keep the Internet tax-free.

Congress has considered Net neutrality legislation, but it never became law. Do you still support the legislation that was re-introduced in 2007 (S 215), which gives the FCC the power to punish "discriminatory" conduct by broadband providers?
Barr: "Net neutrality" is a misnomer for government regulation and control. No one in or out of government knows how the Internet and Internet access will or should evolve. Private providers should be left with the freedom to experiment on forms of services offered and at what prices.

There is no evidence of any market failure, and we have extensive experience with the harmful effects of government controls, however well intended they may be. The most important role for government is to stay out of the way, allowing a vibrant competitive marketplace free of political manipulation to evolve.

Telecommunications companies such as AT&T have been accused in court of opening their networks to the government in violation of federal privacy law. Do you support with intelligence agencies or law enforcement, which was proposed by the Senate Intelligence Committee this fall (S 2248)?
Barr: No, I would not have. The government spying program violated the law and the Constitution. Private companies that aid government officials in violating the law should be held accountable for their actions. We will remain a free society only if we enforce the law against everyone.

The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act's section restricting the "circumvention" of copy protection measures is supported by many copyright holders but has been criticized by some technologists as hindering innovation. Would you support changing the DMCA to permit Americans to make a single backup copy of a DVD, Blu-ray Disc DVD, HD DVD, or video game disc they have legally purchased?
Barr: Yes. It is important to protect intellectual property from piracy, but not all copying is unfair or deprives owners of a reasonable return on their work. The exact rules and regulations governing copyright must be a matter of balance, and allowing the creation of a single backup copy offers a reasonable accommodation for purchasers.

The Department of Homeland Security has proposed extensive Real ID requirements restricting which state ID cards can be accepted at federal buildings and airports. Do you support those regulations as written, would you want to repeal Real ID, or would you prefer something in between?
Barr: I believe that the Real ID law should be repealed. We do not need a de facto national ID card, which would not make us safer. But the Real ID program threatens people's privacy and places an undue burden on the states. I have been proactively fighting against the Real ID Act since it was enacted in 2005, and I will continue to do so.

The U.S. Department of Justice currently is reviewing the proposed advertising deal between Google and Yahoo, and the Federal Trade Commission approved the merger of Google and DoubleClick. Should the federal government take a more or less regulatory position on antitrust and high-tech firms?
Barr: Government has a very poor record in regulating fast-moving and rapidly evolving industries, such as computers, software, and technology. In general, we will all benefit if government takes a hands-off stance.

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about sex offenders using social-networking sites. What, if any, new federal laws are needed in this area?
Barr: Legislation in this area should primarily originate with the states and be directed against sexual predators. I do not believe that broad federal prohibitions against minors accessing social-networking sites, represented by, for instance, the misnamed Deleting Online Predators Act, are justified, and would be effective in protecting children.

The Bush administration has supported legally requiring Internet service providers, and perhaps search engines and social-networking Web sites as well, to keep logs on who their users are and what they do. Do you support federal legislation, such as HR 837, to mandate data retention?
Barr: No. We must never forget that it is a free society that we are defending. In general, the broader the assault on people's privacy, the less valuable the law is as a tool of law enforcement. We must not treat the entire population as if it were guilty in an attempt to find a guilty few.

Do you support enacting federal laws providing for any or all of the following: a) a permanent research-and-development tax credit, b) a permanent moratorium on Internet access taxes, and c) an increase in the current limits on H-1B visas?
Barr: a), rather than making the R&D tax credit permanent, I am committed to broad-based tax reform to both reduce current rates and simplify the law. I favor consideration of either a flat-rate income tax or a consumption tax.

b), as president, I would encourage Congress to pass a permanent prohibition on Internet access taxes.

c), I believe that all Americans benefit when highly educated and skilled workers come to work in the United States. I would prepare legislation for Congress to increase the number of H-1B visas. Additionally, as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law in 2001 and 2002, I led the effort to keep the Internet tax-free.

We have to know: what's your favorite gadget?
Barr: My BlackBerry.