Thursday, May 27, 2010

Your lawmakers and technology laws

In my CIS 152 (Internet/E-Commerce Technologies) course, we discuss some of the reasons technology is ahead of the laws.  I usually then bring up a picture of Frank Lautenberg (an 86 year old Senator from Paterson) and half jokingly asking if the class thinks this guy even knows how to check his email, let alone write laws on technology.  (And yes, I am sure he has a staffer who does the work for him)

I do know there are many committees and subcommittees who specialize in certain areas, but part of the problem is the representation we have.  A government should really represent the people they represent - in demographics, education, race, occupation, etc.  However, if you look at the numbers (scroll down to "Education" or "Occupations"), you will see that over 50% of the Senate have law degrees (57/100), while only 1 of 100 has nothing beyond a high school diploma.  None have associate's degrees.  Yes, this means 99/100 Senators have at least a bachelor's degree.  Now, I understand that you do need a level of savvy to do things politically, but it is one thing to study groups you don't know, and another thing to actually be one of those people and try to be an advocate for them.

In addition, if you look under the occupations, you will see there are (as far as I can tell) no Senators and only one Representative with a degree in Computer Science (Steve Scalise from Louisiana).  Meanwhile, there are 24 members of Congress who are medical professionals.  Of course, one does not need a degree in Computer Science to understand technology, but if you are not using the technology on a daily basis as an everyday person is, you can't truly understand the challenges the way the everyday user does. 

If I needed any more proof in my mind, the article below confirmed what I thought.  In this Washington Post article, it says that a number of Congresspersons do not even know how to use an ATM, or do not use them frequently.  This is information culled from public statements, and I am sure there are many more who, if they answered honestly, would say they also do not use ATMs.  Therefore, when reform comes across the Congressional floor regarding ATM fee reform, they do not truly understand the problem (in this case, large ATM fees) as someone who pays large ATM fees does.

So, if Congresspersons do not have a deep understanding of ATMs (which I take for granted as a pretty simple technology), imagine when someone tries to explain phishing to them...or the challenges of wardriving....or why spyware should be restricted.

I am sure they have some staff members who can inform them about these things, but it is very different when a Congressperson has first hand understanding of an issue and a passion to fix it...and another thing when a staffer gives them information on a topic.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is part of the reason why technology laws are so far behind the technology.


David J. Csuha, CPP, CFE said...

Forgetting about information technology for the moment, one wonders how many of our politicians have knowledge of other technologies, for example, oil drilling equipment?!?!?

David J. Csuha, CPP, CFE said...

Came across an article on a course and textbook called "Physics and Technology for Future Presidents: An Introduction to the Essential Physics Every World Leader Needs to Know"