Biden Administration

What Tech Policies Should We Expect from the Biden Administration?

Some trends to look for over the next four years

|

As the drama of the Trump administration lame duck period fades and the impressive number of troops stationed at our nation's capitol shuffle back to their respective states, the Biden administration is up and running for its first 100 days in office. The old D.C. fixture started with a bang, issuing some 15 executive orders on his first day—a new record.

With this newfound energy to hit the ground running, we can already see a few trends to expect in technology policy over the next four years. From platform policy to cryptocurrency, here are a few things to look out for as the new administration begins to shape its approach to technology and innovation in America.

Big Tech has several seats at the table

Many on the Left had hoped that the Biden administration would be an ally in its efforts to overturn the consumer welfare standard that guides antitrust proceedings in the US and take a tougher stance against Silicon Valley, which paradoxically is a stronghold of Democrat support. But if the Biden administration's transition team and rumored political appointees are any indication, we shouldn't expect Google to get broken up any time soon.

Roughly a dozen former employees from companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google held key advisor and counsel roles in the Biden transition team. This tendency may extend to government personnel, too. For instance, antitrust hawks have been dismayed that the shortlist of likely antitrust enforcers includes corporate attorneys that have helped banks and tech firms navigate antitrust cases in the past.

This is not to say that Big Tech won't see any new regulation. We may see federal privacy legislation and beefed-up government content moderation controls spring forth under the new administration. Even if companies complain, these policies would have the effect of shoring up incumbents' market positions at the expense of competitors since upstarts don't have as many resources for compliance. And the big guys might not even grumble. Most Silicon Valley companies have voiced support for a federal privacy law, whether to generate good press or to undercut California's more quixotic foray into data privacy controls.

It's not surprising that Joe Biden would continue the trend of Silicon Valley chumminess that first blossomed under the reign of his old boss, President Barack Obama. But the more progressive wing of the Democrat party may get their fair share of tech antagonists appointed as well. We'll probably see a lot of back-and-forth as the new administration attempts to appease both its corporate allies and more anti-capitalist ideological base.

We may end up with a situation that is the worst of both worlds: Big Tech animus will be exploited to justify changes to antitrust and data policies that make the overall economy less productive and competitive while largely sparing the big companies that have managed to hold the president's ear.

The net neutrality battle is back

Speaking of Silicon Valley, we can expect some of their desires to be reflected in telecom policy at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The biggest issue to look out for is a revival of the Obama administration's Open Internet Order that is often (and imprecisely) referred to as "net neutrality." Despite the doomsday warnings that internet users would be forced to cough up major dough or face snails-pace websurfing without these rules, the net neutrality debate is basically a dispute between Silicon Valley content providers (e.g. Netflix) and ISP-owned content providers (e.g. AT&T's HBOMax) over pricing arrangements. It's a battle of corporate constituencies.

The Trump administration rolled back these heavy-handed regulations on ISPs that would have probably increased the cost of broadband infrastructure expansion and therefore limited access for users with the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. None of the doomsday prophecies came to pass, of course, but that doesn't mean that the corporate dispute is resolved. Now that the Democrats are in power, the net neutrality debate is sure to rise again.

Biden's early moves on telecom indicate that net neutrality is back on the table. He hasn't said anything specific on the topic, but it's a good bet that he will support and continue the policies undertaken while he was Vice President. He appointed current commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, an outspoken net neutrality advocate, to serve as the acting chair of the FCC. And now that the Democrats have a 3-2 majority at the FCC, the rulemaking calculus is in their favor. The grounds are fertile for legislation, too, since the Democrats recently eked control of Congress as well.

Cryptocurrency: a mixed bag

Although Biden has yet to outline a detailed cryptocurrency policy plan, we have an inkling of what his policies might look like given his early appointments along with general trends in the discourse. Although his personnel picks have been mostly promising, we should expect something of a mixed bag given the overall direction of cryptocurrency regulations.

First, the good news. Biden has tapped Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Gensler is a known quantity in the crypto space, having testified before Congress and penned several knowledgeable articles in cryptocurrency news outlets. He's also taught a course on cryptocurrency for MIT. If nothing else, the decisions that emanate from the SEC would be grounded in expertise under Gensler's tenure.

Rumored picks for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) are likewise at least familiar with cryptocurrencies. CFTC chair likely Chris Brummer is an expert on financial technology (fintech) and has written about cryptocurrency before. Biden's expected OCC head, Michael Barr, has a bit of a more tenuous connection with the crypto world: he served on the board of advisors for the controversial and SEC-indicted Ripple project. Still, he's at least somewhat familiar with the space, and will hopefully follow in the pro-crypto lead of his predecessor Brian Brooks.

Then there's Janet Yellen. Biden's pick for Treasury Secretary famously testified that her former roost at the Federal Reserve had no authority to regulate cryptocurrency. At the Treasury, she sings a different tune. During her nomination hearing, Yellen told Congress that Bitcoin is mainly used for "illicit financing" and that she wanted to "examine ways in which we can curtail their use and make sure that [money laundering] doesn't occur through those channels." This is troubling to hear, since the Treasury Department operates a major financial surveillance program that is coming to ensnare more cryptocurrency transactions within its dragnet.

In the short term, Biden has already given the cryptocurrency industry a bit of breathing room. He issued a freeze on "midnight regulations" proposed by the Trump administration in his waning hours in power. This includes the controversial "unhosted wallet" surveillance rules that would create a major privacy and security risk for privacy-minded cryptocurrency recipients. Still, given future Treasury Secretary Yellen's comments on money laundering, we shouldn't be surprised to see similar financial surveillance proposals under a Biden administration. In general, governments like to have control over technologies, so the tendency to want to regulate cryptocurrency will be strong regardless of who staffs the regulating agencies.

All together now

Much has been made of the Biden administration's promise to bring a "return to normalcy." As libertarians can well appreciate, this is cold comfort. Normalcy, to the establishment, means more big government, big regulation, and big headaches for private people who just want to live their lives peacefully.

There is some cause for optimism, as some of the rumored or announced personnel decisions at the very least demonstrate expertise with their administrative areas. Let's hope they wield their insight for good. If they don't, well, at least there are decentralized and encrypted alternative technologies that we can turn to. Supporting technological projects that innovate around the points of control that governments can exploit is always a better bet for freedom than crossing your fingers and hoping that federal agents show mercy to new technological applications.

NEXT: The Silver Lining in Biden's Massive Housing Plan

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The Biden administration, like the Harris administration soon to follow, does not do policies; it does edicts.
    Fascists use corporate power as the club in their battles with individuals, and your “at least there are decentralized and encrypted alternative technologies that we can turn to” will last only as long as the tech giants permit it.
    Welcome to the revolution.

    1. Time for me and Harvard educated Tony Morello to rage with the machine against the backwards hicks in this country!

      1. ?????PART TIME JOBS FOR US RESIDENTS??????
        I quit working at shop rite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online!
        My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new… QSr after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier.

        Here’s what I do…….. Visit………..USA ONLINE JOBS

      2. Harvard educated Tony Morello

        It would be weird if he went to Harvard at the same time as Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello.

    2. Make 6,000 dollar to 8,000 dollar A Month Online With No Prior Experience Or Skills Required. Be Your Own Boss And Choose Your Own Work Hours. Thanks A lot Here……USA TOP JOB.

    3. While I cannot guarantee what you might get offered if you’re successful with them, my research suggests around $30 USD per hour for those based in Asia/India, and around $30-40 USD per hour for those based in Europe and UK / US / Australia / New Zealand. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail…….INFORMATION USA HOME JOB.

    4. Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple works from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its TYFTearnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
      on this page…. Visit Here

    5. Do you wanna earn money without investing money? That’s how I started this job and POMJ Now I am making $200 to $300 per hour for doing online work from home.

      Apply Now here…….. Visit Here

    1. I get paid 95 $ each hour for work at home on my PC. I never thought I’d have the option to do it however my old buddy is gaining 65k$/month CVyu to month by carrying out this responsibility and she gave me how.

      Give it a shot on following website……Visit……….Home Profit System

  2. SleepyJoe thinks tech is a record player.

    1. Listen here, Jack! These PDF files belong in jail where they can’t hurt America’s children any more!

    2. Biden’s first podcast was on a 45 rpm.

      He supported vote by telegram.

      Just ask the Babylon Bee.

    3. Real online home based work to make more than $14k. Last month i have made $15738 from this home job. Very simple and easy to do and earnings RTEvbc from this are just awesome for details. For more detail visit the given link……….Visit……….Home Profit System

  3. Bad ones. Next question.

    Seriously. Lawyers and people over age 60 shouldn’t have anything to do with rules about technology, or any other subject they know nothing about. Learn how to program the digital clock on your microwave and get back to me, gramps.

    1. Bernie Sanders and his VHS / DVD combo media player are so adorable!

      1. But I do wonder how he presses those tiny buttons wearing those adorable mittens.

        1. He’s a sitting US Senator – unpaid interns do that for him.

    2. Come over here so I can whack you with my walker, sonny!
      It is the old farts that invented computers.
      I would like to see you fit a general ledger program into 64K, which has to also hold the operating system.
      Come on man! You just use technology, you don’t actually know anything about it’s inner workings.

      1. I doubt he’s ever operated a keypunch machine, let alone programed anything using toggle switches.

        Can you hand minimize Karnaugh maps, Minadin?

        1. Meanwhile I’ve not only keypunched, but also programmed a Monrobot programmable printing calculator. I was so clever to invent tricks to fit a random number generator into 63 programming steps (leaving 1 to spare) with its accumulator and auxiliary register being the only data memories, dividing a datum by itself to generate a 1, subtracting it from itself to generate a 0, and dividing by that 0 to generate a halt, otherwise looping via its unconditional looping (which was all it had). One of my prep school classmates for whom I programmed it (for their MLB season simulation) went on to be the macher at Infocom.

          1. That seems to be the challenge I’ve always enjoyed the most: getting something done using seriously underpowered hardware and software. I get a bigger thrill out of barely getting a product out of free shit than I would making something good from what everybody else has available. In coaching football, I also most enjoy improving the play of children from horrible to almost mediocre than from mediocre to excellent.

    3. I don’t think the Tech Sector has much to fear from those over 60, including me. We are pretty much at our limits keeping our phone running.

      There are young people who are smart and tech savoy that are likely to be the problem. If the Tech Sector is watching Biden they are making a mistake, they should be watching AOC. She and other young people like her are more likely to be a problem.

      1. Don’t undersell our generation. We’re the ones who don’t give up until we’ve unscrewed the case and looked for loose connections. We may not be specialists in electronics, plumbing, carpentry, etc., but we have a general sense of how things work and don’t throw up our hands in despair if no expert is at hand.

  4. Whatever tech policies we might expect from the Biden administration, it sure as hell ain’t gonna be “it’s none of our business so we’ll just leave it alone and let the market sort it out”. They have Top Men who are so much more knowledgeable and wise and benevolent that things will be much better if we just do as we’re told rather than bothering to try to think for ourselves. We have no business trying to run our own lives when there are experts who can run our lives so much better for us.

    And this doesn’t apply simply to tech policy, it applies across the board to every last little detail of our lives. There’s simply no denying that central planning is so vastly superior to the operations of the free market that anybody who advocates for the free market over central planning is a dangerous subversive who should be locked up in a mental institution lest he trick gullible fools into believing his nonsense.

  5. Shorter Chief: “I LOVE LOVE LOVVVVE Trump because liberals don’t like him!”

    Also: “Biden is triggering me! Now try to find a way of defending him!” Read More

    1. Oooo. The bots are learning to pull quotes out of other comments. They’re evolving before out very eyes.

  6. “In general, governments like to have control over technologies, so the tendency to want to regulate cryptocurrency will be strong regardless of who staffs the regulating agencies.”

    Give it a few months. The next major propaganda campaign will be dedicated to transforming all holders of cryptocurrency into rank “seditionists” undermining the interests of democracy and the republic by depressing the value of the dollar…. followed by a bevy of oppressive edicts, arbitrary rule changes, and FBI harassment.

    They’re not just going to control cryptocurrency. They are going to throw a lot of people in prison for “currency manipulation.”

    1. Listen, pal! Bitcoin is used by human traffickers and tax dodgers. We have to be socially responsible by ensuring every American uses the US dollar and a socially just bank / credit card company (i.e. they donate to the DNC). How else are we going to financially isolate our political enemies?

    2. “In general, governments like to have control over technologies, so the tendency to want to regulate cryptocurrency will be strong regardless of who staffs the regulating agencies.”

      What regulations have been implemented the last four years?

      “The next major propaganda campaign will be dedicated to transforming all holders of cryptocurrency into rank “seditionists””

      Just saw that several Ivy League School endowments have been buying Bitcoin, so it won’t be “all”. Especially considering that they’re not even pretending we all live by the same rules anymore. It will be a new lesson in propaganda though.

      1. The upper echelons of the Soviet oligarchy always ate black caviar and traipsed about town in fine Italian footwear — while castigating and imprisoning the rest of society for their betrayals and black market activities. Lawless societies are fundamentally indistinguishable in their lawlessness. Only the details change; the farce itself remains structurally identical throughout the ages.

  7. “The old D.C. fixture started with a bang, issuing some 15 executive orders on his first day—a new record.”

    Why not mention it’s 30 in the first 3 days?

    1. If Trump was a dictator, what does that make Biden?

      1. Trump wasn’t a dictator, and it makes Biden look like a dictator.

      2. A crazy, kooky…super-dictator.

  8. “Roughly a dozen former employees from companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google held key advisor and counsel roles in the Biden transition team”

    And yet there is no problem with these three companies censoring conservative speech and stories that hurt Biden before the election.

    1. Puts an entirely different perspective on the issue, doesn’t it?

    2. Especially being REQUESTED by Democratic Politicians to do so —

      “CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Thursday, amid **Democratic calls** for social media companies to expel him permanently”
      The panel’s Democratic chair, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), had called Wednesday for the tech companies to “remove” Trump”

      “The companies’ actions this week still don’t address the deeper problem, incoming **Senate Intelligence** Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement, pointing to years of concerns about online platforms’ role as … far-right wing extremists.”

      ”While I’m pleased to see social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube take long-belated steps to address the President’s sustained misuse of their platforms to sow discord and violence, these isolated actions are both too late and not nearly enough,” Warner said.”

      https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/07/zuckerburg-says-trump-will-be-blocked-from-facebook-and-instagram-455805

  9. You should expect fascist totalitarianist policies

    1. Lots and lots of censorship against conservatives, and libertarians, but done in a way that the government doesn’t actually do it, so it’s ok.

      1. A key component of fascism is using corporations to enforce the government control of the individuals.

  10. “Much has been made of the Biden administration’s promise to bring a “return to normalcy.” As libertarians can well appreciate, this is cold comfort.”

    Here, Andrea admits that Reason (and Dee) is not libertarian, since this exact issue was presented as one of the reasons to vote for Biden before the election.

  11. Much has been made of the Biden administration’s promise to bring a “return to normalcy.” As libertarians can well appreciate, this is cold comfort. Normalcy, to the establishment, means more big government, big regulation, and big headaches for private people who just want to live their lives peacefully.

    Wrong magazine, O’sullivan.

  12. I remember the early Silicon Valley days, when you were expected to show up, work hard, and focus on delivering cool new stuff to customers. It really was a place where all people were welcome, as long as they were builders. Are you a pocket-protector nerd with mad chemistry skills? Intel has a spot for you. More an artist with a CS degree? Atari is on line 3.

    Even during the Dot Com boom (and bust), for better or worse, there was a sense that everyone was at a company to power some sort of technical rule-breaking activity. Davids toppling Goliaths with disruptive technology was the rule of the game.

    But that changed over the last 20 years. Around 2014, I was at a conference with multiple VCs, and I realized all of the “new” industries they were interested in were extremely involved in regulation. Health Care was a huge investment area. Even when they talked about investing in Crypto, it was around “leveraging” blockchain in the financial sector for big banks, not actual cryptocurrencies.

    To be sure, there are still some cowboys out there. But the big Tech Titans are fully invested in the government and the government is invested in them, and as a result Silicon Valley has become just another swamp like the military contractor towns of the 80s.

    1. Overt, I was at Cisco for five years in the late nineties, and this is exactly how it was. I’ve often commented to people about it. I’ve been out of tech for 20 years and I honestly don’t recognize it anymore.

      At Cisco, we had company-wide e-mail lists, which could be set up by anyone, covering all kinds of topics and hobbies including guns and shooting, etc. The list server was completely unregulated by anyone at corporate. In fact it wouldn’t have occurred to anyone in San Jose to regulate e-mail lists. They would have thought the very idea bizarre.

      I often wonder what it’s like inside now.

  13. Expect censorship. A lot of censorship. But the ban hammer will be wielded by the ‘private’ half of the private/public partnership, so Reason will think it’s OK. Until it comes for them, and then they won’t be in a position to complain.

    A crack down on encryption, to make it harder to circumvent the censorship.

    Operation Choke Point will be coming back out of the shadows and expanded. Basically a nation-wide rollout of social credit scores, with the still nominally ‘private’ sector doing the work.

    Washington will mandate election insecurity: Requiring voters to prove they’re who they say they are will be banned, mandatory registration of anybody suspected of being entitled to vote, vote harvesting legalized in all states, and so forth. The dumpster fire election will be imposed nation-wide.

    New states, to gift the Democratic party with more guaranteed seats.

    Court packing, implemented as soon as the Court strikes anything down.

    1. Not sure how elections got into the mix, but I would say you appear to be more afraid of who will be voting than about fraud. Election Security seems to be the new cover word for Jim Crow.

      1. Like a dog whistle?

      2. I’m more concerned with whether they’re real people, and how many times they get to vote, actually.

        1. Good then let’s address that and not try to make it harder for some people to vote. I have commented numerous times in these columns that IDs and signatures do not insure election security and have suggested a more business like approach to security using PINs. We don’t need to make it harder to vote to get better security.

          1. I have commented numerous times in these columns that IDs and signatures do not insure election security and have suggested a more business like approach to security using PINs.

            And I’m sure, in all your years as an illustrious security expert, you’ve been lectured several times about how PINs that just materialize out of thin air, without any credit history, employment history, or similarly associated table of record don’t make a system more intelligent or secure, right?

            Even if you didn’t hear about it as a security expert or some lofty information theory class, surely you learned about it in an entry-level course on databases?

            1. Not really sure where you are going with this comment? Businesses uses PIN frequently with little concern. My suggestion is that identification based on a PIN is likely more secure than an ID or a signature. I am not arguing that a PIN is perfect, but it is better than current ID forms. If structured correctly it would provide security while not preventing people from exercising their voting rights.

  14. I get paid over $90 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I’ve been doing, <("), .for more information simply open this link USA ONLINE JOBS

  15. Well, a couple weeks after two of the world’s largest companies colluded with a firm owned by the world’s richest man to shut down overnight the biggest and fastest-growing competitor to Twitter, without so much as a peep from the media or the new Administration, we can assume anti-trust is no longer a thing in progressive circles.

    1. “… Silicon Valley, which paradoxically is a stronghold of Democrat support”

      What’s paradoxical about supporting the ruling party that’ll destroy your competition?

      1. The trick is, when a company has a policy of “Don’t be evil.” as a joke to take them seriously and when the same company says, “Seriously, we’re rescinding the policy of ‘don’t be evil’. It was a joke.” as a policy, take it as a joke.

  16. Biden will open the H1B floodgates and allow BigTech to flood their payrolls with cheap kids from India. Little brown slaves. Sad.
    You can watch YouTube videos on how to go about making sure you don’t hire one of those pesky American citizens – all perfectly legal.

    Way to go Dementia Joe!

  17. “What Tech Policies Should We Expect from the Biden Administration?”

    The same anti competitive policies that were implemented by the Obama/Biden administration, which promoted and protected Big Tech monopolies and oligopolies from small upstart competitors (especially those owned/run by libertarians and Republicans), while Big Tech simply buys/eliminates competitors they couldn’t regulate out of business, to further their monopolistic (and left wing socialist) goals.

  18. I’am made $84, 8254 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. Im using an online business. Here what I do,.for more information simply open this link thank you… .Click here.

  19. I would not expect to see Big Tech like Google, Facebook, Twitter and others like these to be broken up or hindered in any way. In fact if anything I expect them to be given even more leeway to determine what is suitable to be on their platforms. With Google and its search engine I will expect that they will write new algorithms that will give their candidate an edge. These tech giants helped Biden and K Harris to be elected in the first place thus Biden and Harris owes them a lot of leeway to make decisions on their own without be reversed by the courts or government agency.

  20. In Pandemic, Start making money this time… Spend more time with your family & relatives by doing jobs that only require you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $65000 to $70000 a month. I’ve started this job and earn a handsome income and now I am exchanging it with you, so you can do it too. You can check it out here.. Detail Of Work

  21. Do u want earn money without selling and perchasig ….READ MORe

  22. I am making 92 bucks an hour working from home. i was greatly surprised at the same time as my neighbour advised me she changed into averaging $ninety five however I see the way it works now…. Click here for more info.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.