By all accounts, Carly Fiorina gave a strong performance at the Republican Party presidential debates last week. I initially missed the “undercard” event in which she participated, but after hearing all the media praise and seeing the spike in polls, I finally got around to watching her entire performance and post-debate reflections.

While I concur that Carlymania is real, there were a couple statements the former “tech leader” made that really irked me.

The rise of the cyberwall

During the debate, Carly Fiorina was asked whether she would allow “cyberwalls” to continue to exist. Apparently, the Fox News moderators made up the term “cyberwall” to describe cyber-privacy protections, such as encryption that guard against unwanted snooping by either hackers or government agencies. The question stems from recent discussions led by FBI Director James Comey, who has called on Congress to enable “backdoor access” to encrypted communication.

Fiorina responded to the question by explaining:

We need to tear down cyberwalls not on a mass basis but on a targeted basis….I do not believe we need to wholesale destroy every American’s privacy, but, yes, there is more collaboration required between private sector companies and the public sector.

This answer puts Carly on the outside of the tech community at-large. Mashable detailed how Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and other tech companies have written “multiple open letters urging the administration (and Congress) to lay off policies that would weaken encryption.”

Additionally, Sunday Yokubaitis, president of the Internet security firm Golden Frog, expounded on this opposition in a column titled “Encryption is the Second Amendment of the Internet.” Yokubaitis explained how backdoor access will open Americans to spying both by the U.S. government and by hackers, both foreign and domestic. He also refutes the idea that encryption jeopardizes national security, writing that it:

[E]nsures that the data (individuals) send and receive is encrypted and safe from prying eyes. That data belongs to them; it’s their property. It doesn’t belong to us, an Internet access provider, or the government.

Yokubaitis concludes by comparing privacy protections to another fundamental American principle:

In the same way that firearms are synonymous with the Second Amendment and protecting yourself, using encryption to protect your data should be a fundamental right.

Fiorina might be going for a Reagan moment here, but unlike the original, this would bring the opposite of freedom and liberty to those living under totalitarian governments. Instead, it would expose millions of Americans to an overreaching government and thwart essential privacy protections.

Patents and innovation are not the same thing

The day after the debate, Carly Fiorina went on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to continue to plead her case for being the right choice for the Republican nomination. In discussing her time as CEO of Hewlett-Packard she defended her economic credibility, saying that, during her tenure “we tripled innovation to 11 patents a day.”

You might ask yourself what’s wrong with this statement; don’t patents mean more innovation? Regrettably, this assumption is false, as editorial board of The Economist eloquently explained:

Patents are supposed to spread knowledge, by obliging holders to lay out their innovation for all to see; they often fail, because patent-lawyers are masters of obfuscation. Instead, the system has created a parasitic ecology of trolls and defensive patent-holders, who aim to block innovation, or at least to stand in its way unless they can grab a share of the spoils… Innovation fuels the abundance of modern life. From Google’s algorithms to a new treatment for cystic fibrosis, it underpins the knowledge in the ‘knowledge economy.’ The cost of the innovation that never takes place because of the flawed patent system is incalculable.”

Writing in The Washington Post, Vikek Wadhwa – director of research at Duke University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization – further refutes Fiorina’s logic:

In today’s era of exponentially advancing technologies, however, patents have become the greatest inhibitor to innovation and are holding the United States back. The only way of staying ahead is to out-innovate a competitor; speed to market and constant reinvention are critical. Patents do the reverse; they create disincentives to innovate and slow down innovators by allowing technology laggards and extortionists to sue them.

With these thoughts in mind, I would encourage Carly to rethink her simple equation that patents equal innovation. Seriously, while the guys at JDate might have a patent on it, I doubt they “invented” mutual attraction. Pretty sure that was Cupid… or alcohol.

If Carly truly believes “technology defines our century,” it would benefit her to develop a tech policy platform that is congruent with the community she claims to represent. Thankfully her “Thatcher-esque” performance has most likely catapulted her onto the main stage for the next debate. That will give her an opportunity to hit the reset button and try again on issues important to Silicon Valley.

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