‘Eventful’ wouldn’t do the past year justice after the likes of Brexit, Donald Trump and new legislation shook up the tech world, causing dramatic exits such as members of the President’s cabinet, long protests and global debates.
Charlottesville brought global attention back to domestic American politics and reaction to the white supremacists violent attacks wasn’t favoured by members of the cabinet office, such as Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich.
These protests are just one of the many events that have caused prominent faces in the tech industry to fight for their beliefs and take a stand against the political views.
Opinions float for both sides of the coin, but CBR discovers how the technology sector has dealt with political actions as the two worlds collide.
Brian Krzanich – Charlottesville
Charlottesville resulted in CEO of Intel, Brian Krzanich resigning from Trump’s cabinet after not seeing eye-to-eye in the handling of the process. Formerly making up part of the American Manufacturing Council, Kzranich stepped down after disagreeing with Trump’s politics.
Ridiculing the racist, violent behaviour in the recent protests the Intel boss felt Trump didn’t deliver a response strong and authoritative enough to deal with the results of the protests.
Krzanich is the third loss to the President’s cabinet following the resignation of two other Chief Executive Officers, Kenneth Fraizer or Merck and Keven Plank of Under Armour, because his reaction, or lack of, to the rallies in the last week.
Silicon Valley Makes a Stand
Once again, Trump caused tension through tech companies – this time it was his immigration ban. Foreign born workers make up 37% of Silicon Valley workers, bringing new talent to the country and helping to create innovative new technologies and products that will better companies such as Google and Apple.
Google, Apple and Microsoft all expressed concern with the immigration ban and the implication it could have on the industry, through a signed written document, saying the ban “inflicts significant harm on American business”.
Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO, took the liberty of resigning following the election and announcement of the ban and said: “Immigration and openness to refugees is an important part of our country’s success and quite honestly to Uber’s.”
Workers from Silicon Valley took time out from work to protest, participate in rallies and other civic activities to air their views on the political decision.
Facebook has the largest amount of immigrant workers at Silicon Valley, making up 15% of its workforce, which left Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook to announce in a note that he is “concerned about the impact of the recent executive orders signed by President Trump.”
The immigration ban also affects tech companies across the US by limiting the time immigrant workers can stay in the country, work for a company and develop the tech sector.
November’s election resulted in 60% fewer requests for foreign workers from US based companies; due to the uncertainty the immigration policy leaves among workers visas. It also left workers less likely to engage with US companies after accepted interview requests from US companies fell by 4%.
As a result, the policy revealed 40% of employees would consider looking elsewhere for work, in other countries and the US ultimately losing talent due to political blindness.
Data Protection Bill
New legislation from the Government caused mixed views within the industry as the UK Government took a proactive approach to tackling cyber security and protectecting user data.
Following a string of cyber-attacks the legislation homes in on those businesses failing to do more to protect their firms and users from attacks and leaking of data. Granting consumers the power to withdraw their personal information from the database at their request, the law has been updated.
Although welcomed by some organisations as a means to increase security and protection of data others have found flaws within the plan. Greg Hanson, VP EMEA Cloud, Informatica said: “As a result, UK businesses need to identify which data will be subject to the new law and ensure that it can be easily accessed and deleted if needs be.
Read More: Tech sector reacts: Data Protection Bill
“With fines of £17 million or 4 per cent of global turnover for non-compliance, good data management just became an essential for all consumer-facing businesses. The price of non-compliance could be fatal.”
Arriving in less than a year, the Bill will replace the Data Protection Act 1998. The Bill will empower users of the internet to erase any data they do not want to share. Additionally, the government will also implement the General Data Protection regulation, which will come into force in 2018, helping maintain the ability to share data with other EU members after the UK leaves the EU.
Google & GoDaddy say No
In a double whammy, Neo-Nazi site ‘The Daily Stormer’ has been cut off by not one, but two domain’s after publishing a post calling a Charlottesville victim a ‘Fat, childless sl*t’.
Charlottesville protests and violence caused enough outrage across the US and bordering countries, without the likes of a webpage causing more scandal and slander to victim Heather Heyer.
White supremacist site, The Daily Stormer, was given 24 hours to find another domain provider, after violating terms of service from GoDaddy.
Social media brought worldwide opinions with one user targeting GoDaddy and said: “Please retweet if you think this hate should be taken down & banned.”
In reaction, GoDaddy removed the webpage’s domain accessibility to hit back that it was not acceptable. Less than 24 hours later Google adopted the domain for the site, before later revoking and said: “We don’t want our services to incite violence.”
Unlike former opponent Trump, Hillary Clinton stirred the pot in a more positive way across the tech industry.
Leaders of tech companies advocated Clinton’s vision throughout the election campaign, backing her ideas to develop the tech industry and enforce her policies to benefit them. Clinton emphasised investment into research and technology without creating a federal budget blowout. Clinton’s democrat plans outlined investing in a ‘world-class digital infrastructure’, attract and retain top talent from around the world and invest in science and technology research and development.
Among the tech leaders backing Clinton’s vision were Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube and Todd Bradley, Chief Executive of Mozido who said: “In these turbulent times, we need steady, level-headed leadership and I would not want Donald Trump making decisions about my company let alone our country’s economy.”
Big Bad Brexit?
Following the vote to stay or leave the EU, Brexit is set to happen as the majority voted leave. But where did this leave the tech industry?
Many companies import and export across the EU borders and employ immigrant workers, similar to the US, to help create innovative ideas in the industry and develop products perfect for users.
Brexit could potentially limit all those things. Immigration is to be slowed as movement between the borders will become much more difficult, with less freedom, meaning the potential to lose connections with overseas companies.
The tech industry spoke out about how it would take on the challenge of Brexit outlining businesses need a ‘positive vision’.
Julian David, techUK CEO said: “To thrive, the UK needs to be at the forefront of countries that are inventing the future, not just by leading in innovation and the use of new technologies, but by enabling the economy to adapt and people to flourish.
“It is vital that the UK remains an open and dynamic economy in which tech businesses of all sizes can be the engine of inclusive growth.”
Political differences have created quite a storm among the tech industry as the two worlds collide, leading to the resignation of some of the biggest names in the technology industry from government panels. What is the future of the technology industry set to look like if all plans follow through? If resignation carries on, it questions the future of technology, innovation and product development if talent is dismissed or unavailable potentially leading to a halt in digital transformation.
No individual will react the same, only in the way of doing the best for their company; however political differences and opposing opinions are leading to a lack of leadership and development as top role workers step down and disagree with their country’s decision.
CEO’s are at the heart of the industry, but consumers drive the production and profitability, if CEO’s keep leaving what’s to say consumers won’t stay either. Inevitably leading to technology decline in a vicious circle; no leadership to no innovation to no development to less products to decline in purchases. Politics should be benefit each sector in some way, big or small, not hinder progress and turn countries against one another the way democracy seems to do today.