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Technology Voters' Guide: Ron Paul

Republican thinks a free market is key to broadband expansion and that feds should stay out of mergers and social networks. Special coverage: Election 2008

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.
Declan McCullagh
5 min read
Iraq, immigration, taxes, and health care probably have been the four most pressing topics of the 2008 presidential campaign. Technology has made nary an appearance.

Sure, there have been the YouTube-ified debates, MySpace.com polls, record-setting fund-raising efforts, and the now-obligatory Google office visits.

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

In late November, we sent questionnaires to the top candidates--measured by funds raised and poll standings--from each major party. We asked each the same 10 questions.

Not all candidates chose to respond: Republicans Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson rebuffed our requests, as did Democrats Joe Biden and Bill Richardson. In all such cases, we made repeated efforts to try to convince them to change their minds.

Read on for responses from Rep. Ron Paul, or check out CNET News.com's election coverage roundup, featuring other Technology Voters' Guide candidate reports.

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?
Ron Paul: I believe that this can be best accomplished through deregulation and allowing the free market to work. Federal grants and subsidies will only elevate certain providers while holding back others. If the high-speed Internet access market is allowed to work without interference, fierce competition will drive down prices, as it did with dial-up access.

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?
Paul: No. Net neutrality legislation will hamper the development of new Internet services and harm consumers in the long run. The best way to address the concerns of proponents of Net neutrality is to remove government-imposed barriers to entry into the Internet provider market.

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 giving them retroactive immunity for any illicit cooperation with intelligence agencies or law enforcement, which was proposed by the Senate Intelligence Committee this fall (S 2248)?
Paul: No. I would in no way support giving them immunity for breaking privacy laws. One of the legitimate functions of the federal government is to protect the privacy of its citizens, not invade it. If private companies cooperated with the federal government in violating the Fourth Amendment rights of their customers, they should be held accountable.

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?
Paul: While I have not yet made a full study of this issue, I would tend to protect the rights of consumers to make a backup copy of materials they have purchased, as long as the consumers complied with any contractual obligations they incurred when purchasing the product.

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?
Paul: I do not support any Real ID program, and I would seek the repeal of all federal laws mandating a Real ID program. The Real ID Act imposes tremendous costs on state governments, yet any state that opts out will automatically make nonpersons out of its citizens.

The citizens of that state will be unable to have any dealings with the federal government because their ID will not be accepted. They will not be able to fly or to take a train. In essence, in the eyes of the federal government, they will cease to exist.

However, the most objectionable feature of the Real ID Act is that it turns state driver's licenses into de facto national ID cards, thus facilitating the massive invasion of an American's privacy, facilitating the growth of the surveillance state, and turning America into the type of country where citizens must always have their "papers in order."

The Federal Trade Commission is reviewing the proposed merger of Google and DoubleClick. Some members of Congress have raised privacy concerns, while others have said the deal should proceed. What are your views? (Editors' note: We posed this question before the FTC gave the merger unconditional approval on December 20.)
Paul: The government has no constitutional authority to interfere in market transactions such as mergers. Legitimate concerns about the abuse of customer privacy should be addressed via private contracts between companies and consumers, with companies being held liable at common law for any breaches of their customer's privacy.

Congressional hand-wringing about the violation of privacy by private businesses is a distraction from the massive invasions of privacy conducted on a daily basis by the federal government.

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?
Paul: Under the Constitution, the federal government does not have the authority to regulate social-networking sites. I would return this matter to state and local governments. Ultimately, parents are the best suited to protect their own children. Federal intervention should never be a substitute for parental involvement in children's lives.

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?
Paul: No, I do not. Such legislation poses a serious risk to privacy. The federal government has no right tracking who uses the Internet and why they are doing so.

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?
Paul: I support either abolishing or greatly reducing as many taxes as possible, and placing money back into the hands of individuals and businesses. Therefore, I would support a permanent research-and-development tax credit, as well as a permanent moratorium on Internet access taxes.

I support immediately getting rid of the corruption in the H-1B visa program. This program allows for immigrants to legally and legitimately come to work here for a set time. I would support expanding it to decrease the incentive to come here illegally.

We have to know: what's your favorite gadget?
Paul: My personal computer. It allows me to connect to the Internet, where I can find a wide range of information and opinions from around the world at a click of a button. Of course, I am particularly fond of the Internet, since it has played such a key role in organizing grassroots support for my presidential campaign.