Apr 27, 2017 - Politics & Policy

Box CEO takes on immigration, encryption

Box CEO Aaron Levie isn't shy about speaking out on President Trump's policies, and this week he's in D.C. to meet with administration officials and lawmakers about immigration, education and encryption — among other issues the he and other tech execs are raising.

The broad view: To Levie, these issues aren't limited to Silicon Valley. "Any industry — whether its automotive, health care, banking — all of these are going to be driven by all the trends today that drive a Google, or an Apple or a Box." While tech companies tend to be on the forefront of advocating for these issues, they have broader economic implications for just about every sector these days.

You've been outspoken about Trump's immigration policies, including H-1B visas. What do you think about the executive order calling for a merit-based system that prioritizes higher salaries?

Speaking for Box specifically, we have no problem with making the system more fair, requiring more in terms of qualifications or criteria for getting an H-1B [worker], whether it's a salary minimum or other ways of really making sure this is truly high-skilled kind of talent. ...In a really weird way that would actually be positive for the Googles and the Facebooks and Boxes of the world. If you look at where the H-1B visas are being allocated, its disproportionally to the outsourcing companies. If it swung toward the big tech companies, that would have a pretty positive impact on the amount of talent we would have in our organizations.

We should fix the (visa system) for near-term competitiveness of the country while fixing the long-term issue of STEM education for our long-term talent [needs]. In fact i think there's probably some creative ways where you could fund the latter with the former... A completely random idea: we'd be more than willing to pay more money to get an H-1B visa if that money went straight to STEM education. There's probably ways where you could get the tech community directly to pay for improving the education system so we are actually building a much better supply of talent for the future.

You have strong opinions about whether law enforcement should be able to access a "back door" to encrypted information stored on devices. How do you view that relationship?

You can't just look at it through the narrow lens of, should you be able to open up the device, should you be able to decrypt data with a government subpoena or not [for national security interests]? You have to zoom out and look at all the vast implications of...opening up a device. What happens if another country wants to be able to get access to that data? What happens if a bad actor gets access to the back door that enabled us to open up that data?

How do we imagine in 10 or 20 or 30 years we're going to be designing secure systems, if we're designing them with core vulnerabilities where people can open up and unlock or decrypt information? ...Because when our cars are connected to the cloud, and they're driving around autonomously, do we want to be in an environment where those cars are not using strong encryption for how they're sending data back and forth?

How should Washington rethink regulation for the digital era?

Where I'd differ from the libertarian Silicon Valley view of get rid of regulation, is I actually think there are better ways to regulate in a modern digital way. What if we actually had a way of regulating... that understood real-time data coming out of our cloud systems that could alert regulators of anomalies or really important events as opposed to a report a year after the event already happened? We think we could move into a world of real time continue regulation — better regulation — because of digital platforms.

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