When U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell arrived on Capitol Hill for his first term four years ago, some lawmakers thought the now 36-year old was an intern.
But the California Democrat quickly gained a reputation for his technology prowess, partly by helping senior lawmakers setup Snapchat and Instagram accounts.
Now in his third term, Swalwell has made tech issues a priority. In a two-part interview with Bloomberg BNA (Part I here and Part II here), Swalwell talked about his objectives for the 115th session, including promoting encryption and the sharing economy.
Tech industry and law enforcement interests have not always aligned when it comes to issues such as cybersecurity and intelligence. But Swalwell combines these perspectives: he’s a Silicon Valley-area lawmaker who’s also a former prosecutor and ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence CIA Subcommittee.
Swalwell differs with Trump administration officials such as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has supported security backdoors so law enforcement can access the content of encrypted devices in investigations. However, Swalwell supports giving law enforcement agencies access to metadata, such as where and when communications are sent.
"I don't think that we require a backdoor, because what will happen is U.S. companies would just offshore their encryption services to countries where a backdoor is not required," Swalwell said.
Swalwell also said he's looking into efforts to promote federal employee "cyber hygiene skills" and modernize federal IT software and hardware to better defend U.S. institutions against electronic meddling. Paid social media trolls, fake news campaigns and email hacks that U.S. intelligence agencies have said Russia carried out during the 2016 presidential election are top concerns that the U.S. must address, the lawmaker said.
As a leader of the bipartisan Sharing Economy Caucus he co-founded with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Swalwell also had a message for the Trump administration: the gig economy needs a new model for worker benefits, such as healthcare or retirement savings plans. Swalwell suggested a portable benefit structure so individual contractors working for companies such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb can keep accruing benefits even as they move between employers.
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