If you're of the opinion that politicians are unqualified to create tech policy, then know that Ben Fried, Google's chief information officer, largely agrees with you.
"The current generation of lawmakers are probably not the best informed [about technological issues]," Fried told an audience at Columbia University today. And for that reason, according to Fried, they're likely not the best people to answer important policy questions about tech. Fried made his comments as a part of a panel discussion on "big data" that included executives from Bloomberg, Microsoft, and Facebook.
"I hope you're not going to try and get me in trouble." The panel was interesting but bereft of news until just before wrapping up, when an audience member cast a fat fish-hook of a question about improving privacy. When Fried's turn came to talk, he took the bait. He said privacy and other important issues differed depending on the country, and he hoped citizens around the world would become better informed about tech so they could create the best laws. That's when he ripped into politicians. Following the session, Fried was asked about his comment. He grimaced and told The Verge: "I hope you're not going to try and get me in trouble."
"Most of today's lawmakers, I think, did not grow up as literate in the technology capabilities and climate in the world as Millennials." He added this to his initial statement: "I think most of today's lawmakers, I think, did not grow up as literate in the technology capabilities and climate in the world as Millennials and people who are graduating now. The capabilities that technology offers being introduced into the world are very different from what [today's politicians] are used to or grew up with and that creates a gap. The people who are establishing the laws for our society are themselves not natives to the capabilities and conditions. That doesn't mean through education and learning and so on..." he trailed off here to make the point that he didn't intend to bring up politicians.
After the panel, I came away with the impression that Fried believes politicians are clueless about tech. After our interview, I came away thinking he believes they're clueless, but it's not their fault. Either way, a Google executive being critical of the tech chops of the country's political leaders shouldn't surprise anyone. Google has had numerous run-ins with Congress over privacy issues, potential antitrust violations, and online piracy. It's not a stretch to assume some at Google believe Capitol Hill just doesn't get it.