Sorry to revive ugly memories of last fall’s vituperative presidential campaign, in which bile was spewed over candidate Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State, and its vulnerability to hacking. Clinton eventually conceded that her use of a personal email server was a “mistake.” Which it was, on so many levels.
Now, news reports indicate that Vice President Mike Pence, while Governor of Indiana, used a private email account (AOL, no less) to conduct state business. And that some of the messages apparently contained sensitive law enforcement and Homeland Security information. And that, unlike Clinton’s private server, Governor Pence’s personal email account was actually hacked. And that the hack occurred (wait for it) last summer – in the midst of all of the self-righteous indignation over Clinton’s email practices. Thankfully, Governor Pence and his wife were NOT stranded in the Philippines, and we did NOT need to wire them emergency funds.
These revelations will no doubt spur cries of bald-faced hypocrisy, and equally heated arguments that Pence’s situation is different than Clinton’s (AOL v. private server, Governor v. Secretary of State, sensitive Homeland Security information v. classified information, and so forth).
But here’s a thought – instead of yet another round of beating ourselves over the head with partisan cudgels, what if we tried something different this time?
The reality is that politicians and office holders, regardless of political party, are often careless about data security, data retention, and personal technology use. No political party has a monopoly on this – whether it’s John Podesta succumbing to phishing, or President Trump persistently using vulnerable security settings on his Twitter account. This makes them a lot like the rest of us. And the cycle of (1) breaking news on the latest revelation about unsecure data practices, (2) indignant outrage and political posturing, and (3) on to the next news item, is not only tiresome. It smacks of hubris, of glass-house-dwellers gleefully throwing rocks.
So, what if we acknowledged that our leaders have data problems and make security mistakes precisely because they are people … just like us? And what if we admitted that we have a common problem – namely, that we don’t think enough about being careful and responsible with our data and technology use? And (wait for it) what if we recognized that the solution is to work together to actually improve our data practices, in law and policy, in our organizations, and in our personal lives? Now that would be breaking news.