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CNET Conversations: Aneesh ChopraIntroducing a new series where CNET editors interview tech newsmakers. First up, Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra talks DMCA, Net neutrality, innovation, and more.
[ Music ] ^M00:00:08 >> Hello everyone welcome to CNET Conversations. I'm Molly Wood Executive Editor at CNET.com. This is CBSnews.com's Senior Political Correspondent and CNET contributor Declan McCulla [assumed spelling] and today we're joined by Aneesh Chopra the Federal Chief Technology Officer of the United States. Now before joining President Obama's advisory team Aneesh was the Secretary of Technology for the State of Virginia. And thank you so much for joining us. >> My pleasure. Thank you for having me. >> And for coming back to CNET. >> Yes. >> Now we are excited because there's actual news this week. The president just unveiled the nation's innovation strategy. You were there on Air Force One [laughter]. Can you give us a little bit of an overview some of the major strategic initiatives there. >> Well thank you for the opportunity and for your reporting. In fact I'm a great fan of the various programs on the network. The president did something very important this week in that he reminded us that while we are struggling with our economy in very many pockets of the country we have to have a strategy that puts us in place for long term sustainable growth, high quality, high wage jobs. An economic recovery package well over $100 billion of the package focused on areas that are really geared towards long term economic growth. The President had the opportunity on Monday to unveil these pillars of our strategy and they are this: First, we must focus on the building blocks of innovation. The President has been committed on a number of occasions to say that we will double the rate of spending and we are on track to double the rate of spending on our core science and technology priorities. The second pillar that the president described in his innovation strategy was that we needed to spur competitive markets to promote innovation and in that vein a lot of what we talked about was in areas that are responsible my responsibility mainly what is it that the federal government can do to open up new markets for innovation. The third pillar is the pillar that has a lot of the attention these days and that is to focus a great deal of our emphasis on catalyzing innovation on national priorities whether it be to address our energy independence goals, our goals to bend the health care cost curve as well as to ensure that we have a world class educational system for all to benefit from. >> So let's back up a little bit and talk about because obviously in that second pillar some of the work that you are doing is going to be very important. There may be people watching this now who aren't exactly clear on what that work is. Can you give us an overview basically of what your main priorities are and frankly what's your job description. >> Thanks for asking. Let me start with the job description cause that's the easiest part. In the area of building blocks of innovation my number 1 deliverable is to collaborate with the private sector on developing a cyber security posture or an initiative if you'd like to call it that really helps to bring security to the nations open internet infrastructure and how we achieve this goal will be difficult, it's gonna be a tough road but we are committed to those principles that will preserve the openness of the internet but build in more capacity for security. We intend to work closely with the private sector. I'm right now actively working with the financial services industry on strategies that will build on this program so that would be 1 key aspect of what I will do. In the second category of innovation for national priorities I will be focusing on very specifically what are the data standards we should be adopting to ensure a more efficient health care system through information technology. Just this past week I was asked to chair the President's health IT standards adoption working group specifically around making sure that the standards we intend to make in regulation actually can translate to real world success so that when you and I knock on the doors of our doctors and hospitals we can actually capture the health care information we want in a secure way with respect to privacy but in an easy way that will help us to build applications that will make us healthier in the long run and then 3rd in terms of competitive markets and what we can do to spur entrepreneurship we sit on a treasure trove of data in the administration. What we're trying to do through the presidents open government initiative in particular is if we get the government in a position to spur innovation we can imagine what you could do if you could consume some of the data that we have from the patent and trademark office. In a more easier fashion to help you identify where there might be opportunities for new markets, what you've already been seen been done and the background around it. Our Patent and Trademark Office is committed to being much more transparent than it has been in the past. We think just that action alone might help to spur and there are data sets throughout government that if we actually made more accessible could spur. Whether it be on energy information, health care information and the like. >> Let me ask you this. You talked about the President's advisors and how you're 1 of them, how about your advisors, do you have brain trusts? Are the people from Amazon, Google, Microsoft do you chat with? >> Oh absolutely. I will describe my team in 3 parts. Inside the administration I have an incredible team of deputies. My first deputy was the former Head of Public Policy at Google, Andrew McGlauclin [assumed spelling]. My second deputy author of the book Wiki Government Professor Beth Noveck who is one of the leading experts on open government and my 3rd deputy is Scott Doitchman [assumed spelling] who'd been at the FCC in the chairman's office and had been one of the nation's leading experts in telecommunications policy. So I've got a killer team providing advice to me inside. In addition to those folks there's a network of about a dozen or so chief technology officers throughout the agencies that I'm essentially networked with to advance the presidents priorities. >> So now here's 1 question I have in terms of this idea of openness and transparency in government. Why doesn't your office have an official website? >> It does. >> It does? What is it? >> You wouldn't know it. >> I know you wouldn't know it. >> Its www.ostp.gov. that would be the White House Office of Science and Technology and Policy. I can't tell you that it's the most incredibly well engineered website. Most of us in the white house have inherited the contractors that had been around in the previous administration to manage the daily operations of our websites. Procurements and things take time to be able to make judgments and swapping out capabilities. >> This is just one of your hats. How about your other your other hat? >> As CTO? >> Exactly this Chief Technology Officer does not have a website. >> Yeah. >> No. Well no no no not even yet. The closest we have is whitehouse.gov/open and that is where the output of a lot of work is meant to be showcased. The reality is the President's advisors are not meant to be their own independent voices if you will from the perspective of communications. What I do is serve the president and make sure that he gets the best advice he has to address all the issues that are in front of him. A website for the CTO is a little bit odd in that I don't operate any particular division of the government. I don't have a team of engineers developing product. What I do is collaborate in the execution of policy by having agencies take the lead on actually doing the work and then they take a lot of the press and the activities. >> So we have a couple of questions that are generally and specifically from our users the meat and potatoes of our audience issues. One of them, this has been sort of huge concern to our audience specifically. Joe Biden, the Vice President has a very pro RIAA voting record. They're obviously some key RIAA attorneys now in justice department posts. Do you think that that has 2 questions really. Has that estranged the administration at all from kind of this progressive net roots technology circle that you are now running in and then also what's your position on amending the DMCA to specifically allow fair use, like legally copying a DVD for backup? >> Great questions. I have not provided any formal advice on the DMCA questions. So I'll begin by that piece. On the broader notion of the voices in the administration that have come to the table I think one of the things the President has done very well is insure that we have excellence in the administration. He's put in place a number of key positions. Now we all have different views from where we come from and as issues come before the president what he has asked us to do is to work through those issues to find common ground. I fully envision that we would embrace those issues as they come up. I would say on the issue of where we are on intellectual property rights what are we doing with respect to the openness of the internet? We must take into consideration the following key principles. A great deal of our economic success has come from the fact that those who retain intellectual property rights because we've opened up so many trade markets globally have delivered extraordinary returns to the American economy and we honor that and celebrate that and that's a key part of our economic success. At the same time we understand that in technology the ability to mash up different pieces and parts to create new value has been another key pillar of growth. So you've identified rightly so what are the areas that we'll call we'll call that in detention as those polices come before us we'll weight in but as of now we'd have no explicit statement on DMCA and no position that I'm in a position to share. >> I mean the DMCA it's been around since 98 and you folks have other things on your plate right now I've heard. But in general are the current US copyright laws sufficient? Should they be tightened more? Should they be relaxed more even any thoughts? >> Well I might lift it up to think more broadly about patents and patent reform. The President has been absolutely clear that we need to have patent reform, one that balances these tensions. You know we've got basically 2 theories of the case; those that are essentially as I just eluded to supportive of a more broad interpretation and those that are a little more focused on protecting that which has been a key pillar of our economy. Presidents called for an effective and efficient patent system. He's named Dave Capos [assumed spelling] to the head of the USPTO, a man I have a great deal of respect for and is grappling with these issues as we speak. I engage with Dave on the policy issues that are that are here and I'm confident we'll have a program in patent reform that will be effective and one that we'll celebrate when we roll it out. >> But that's patents copyright law. >> I know. >> Good, bad, evil. >> I know continuing to extend the life of copyright more and more and more [laughter]. >> You like it, you hate it? Do you want to tweak it a little bit? >> I don't have any particular view on what we do with respect to copyright. I know exactly what you're describing. I would say this: If you look at my track record. I embraced the creative commons licensing regime in Virginia. We supported a piece of legislation that specifically called on the Governor's Office to declare what our policies would be with respect to creative commons. When we published the Physics Flex Book we did so in a creative commons licensing regime. So I'm I've got a track record here that speaks a little bit more towards at least some aspect of how we allow for the sharing and reusability of intellectual property so to the extent that I have a view it largely is informed by that experience. >> Well and then here's another easy one for you. >> Thank you. >> Broader internet policy overall, net neutrality. >> Yes >> We have a Twitter CNET reader wanting to know is the FCC doing the right thing on that neutrality in fighting Comcast and as has been reported started a new rule making conversation on the topic. Are you involved in those discussions? >> The President has been explicitly clear that we have been in support of net neutrality. He said it on the campaign trail. He said it again in his speech on cyber security. >> But it did oh so briefly come off the website. >> Oh I don't know that. I'll have to check into that. I appreciate the heads up. Which website in particular? >> It was on the change.gov site. There was a version tracker where there was a very explicit commitment to net neutrality that was very briefly changed. It kind of disappeared. >> I will, well change.gov was the transition website. So I will look into that. But I can assure you as the President said emphatically in his remarks on innovation earlier this week that we are committed to the principles of net neutrality. Chairman Genachowsky at the FCC has as I said independent regulatory authority and the chairman has set forward a plan. We have great confidence in chairman Genachowsky and are supportive of the actions that he's taken and we don't have any direct influence over those actions, it's an independent regulatory body but obviously we do what we can to collaborate where we are appropriately engaged on policy issues for the president outside of the FCCs domain but we work very closely together. I can assure you we're working hard on this issue and I'm confident we'll get to the right space. >> Another net neutrality follow-up. It's one thing to say you support the principles and the President has been in my recollection clear and consistent about this but taking it down 1 step into details, would it be sufficient for the FCC to come up with its rule making assuming it ends up where we think it is or does congress need to pass legislation because you know future FCC commissioners >> I understand. >> could have a different view and republican administration the votes could switch. >> I agree. Well, I would think of this in 3 parts. I think of life as light, medium and heavy. Light would be to what extent, this doesn't require legislation, this doesn't require any new regulatory frameworks. How are our actions actually promoting the principles of network neutrality? I think in the work we're doing around collaborating with the private sector in cyber security are built on the principles that that would be espoused as you're describing. Second would be medium. At FCC rule making process does have sustainability. It could be overturned but at least rules right now we're operating under the framework of guiding principles. I think rule making would would provide a little bit more regulatory heft behind to principles and then the 3rd would be whether or not we need a formal legal framework. To date we have pursued the light and the medium. I leave it to congress if it wishes to pursue this better but we are confident we are achieving the president's goals in the model that we have. >> And we'll make this our last user question. Many users ask this actually a question about I believe about one of Decklan's scoops here at news.com. Senator Rockefeller democrat has proposed giving the President emergency control over the internet in bill number S773. Can you explain what it means to take control of the internet and private networks and under what conditions might the White House assume control and then relinquish it and then of course does the administration support that bill? >> Let me begin by saying however it's characterized that would be Senator Rockefellers' position to describe. I don't know if he would describe it in the same way. We have a coordination committee that is working on all of the pieces of legislation and there are literally dozens of bills that the congress is evaluating. We are organized to review those bills and to provide thoughtful feedback. We have not yet taken any formal positions on any particular aspects because we are in part awaiting the appointment of our cyber security coordinator. That will help to bring those policies into alignment. I will say this, on the on the sort of operational side if you will if you were to think about the President's commitment we have been very clear from his speech we do not intend for the government to take over private networks. I don't know how much clearer we can be. That is our position. The President has asked me to collaborate with the private sector in ways that would deliver greater security. My presumption is it would be largely in the development of managed services that ride the open internet that might be more secure and built in with capabilities that are more protective of those that are using it. How and in what format they will take hold will engage and work but again the basic spirit is the government will collaborate with the private sector, not take over as perhaps others might wish. That's our position and we've been pretty clear. >> And a quick follow-up. It's been a few months since the cyber security review has been. . . >> Yeah. >> . . . finished and we don't have a National Cyber Security Coordinator >> Yeah. >> Is this gonna happen anytime soon? >> Well we hope so. The President has said this is an important position to fill. It will require someone with great skill that understands the nature of the threats understands policy making and has the capacity to coordinate across a wide range of actors, both in the military side, the National Homeland Security side, the domestic side. So it's it is clearly an important position to fill. He has said he wants to name this individual to have a very senior role in the administration but in the absence of that role I want to assure all of your viewers we have been working very closely. When the President announced this review he said I want my CIO and the Chief Technology Officer to collaborate with the Cyber Security Coordinator. While that particular role hasn't been filled the staff that would otherwise support that role have been in place. We have met frequently. We are advancing policy ideals. We are working very hard on a wide range of activities. So the we're not waiting on the appointment to move the ball forward. The President said it's an important issue; we're working on it very hard. >> Great. On that note we'll wrap it up since we don't want to take all of your time. But thank you very much. >> My pleasure. >> Again thank you so much for joining us today and thank you to all of you for watching CNET conversations. We'll be having many more conversations in the near future with all kinds of tech news makers. Look for your invitation to join the next one at CNET.com. ^M00:18:13 [ Music ]