Interview With Emily Cheng of Bloomberg

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Ford Plaza - Innovation Marketplace, Stanford University
Stanford, CA
June 23, 2016

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, first of all, thank you so much for doing this.

SECRETARY KERRY: Happy to be with you.

QUESTION: It’s an honor to be here with you. Historically, the State Department has focused on diplomacy as a means of creating a more stable world. What’s changed over the last 10 or 20 years that’s made exporting entrepreneurship such a priority?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, from the day that I was nominated I have consistently said that foreign policy is economic policy, and economic policy is foreign policy. We are living – we all know – the word has become almost trite – a globalized community. It’s a small world. Everybody’s in touch with everybody, things move so rapidly, and there’s huge competition for market share and so forth. So it’s a world in which you better be ahead of the game in creating jobs, creating the new technologies, and staying ahead of the curve. It’s that simple. And it is vital to creating stability, making peace. If you don’t have jobs for tens of millions of young people in many of these countries, we’re in trouble. And it’s the entrepreneurs who create the jobs.

QUESTION: Ten years ago, the President or the Secretary of State hosted a summit like this. Is entrepreneurship a vehicle for democracy?

SECRETARY KERRY: It can be, certainly. I think in terms of communication and speed, the freedom to invest, the nature of risk-taking tends to want openness. And I think it works more effectively, but it’s not exclusive to that, no. There are raging capitalist enterprises going on in authoritarian governments, in countries with authoritarian governments. I mean, China is an example. It’s a one-party system, it’s an authoritarian government, and it is competing voraciously around the world. So – but I think China has some challenges because of its internet policy and the nature of risk-taking there, and the nature of partnerships required in some things. I think there’s a certain limitation in it in the long run.

QUESTION: Does Donald Trump threaten what President Obama has built when it comes to entrepreneurship, when it comes to innovation?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I’m not – look, I – it’s not my job and role to get into the middle of the election. People will make their judgments. I have said and I repeat that everywhere I go people are asking me about his statements, and they are expressing great concern. But the candidates have to fight that out.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. One of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world, Mark Zuckerberg, was recently photographed with a shot of his laptop. You could see it in the background. He had tape over the camera and tape over the microphone. What does that say about the state of cybersecurity in this world?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, cybersecurity is a challenge. If you’re not aware of what you’re doing and saying and what sort of apps you have, a telephone can be a listening device as well as a communications device, and a camera. And the camera can work different ways. So people obviously need to be aware. We are working very, very hard with countries to establish the norms and have rules of the road with respect to cyber. We made progress with China to some degree. We’re still working at the implementation, but it is a challenge. And we all in government are particularly sensitized and careful.

QUESTION: Former Attorney General Eric Holder recently said he now believes Edward Snowden did a public service by exposing surveillance techniques, exposing this debate. Do you agree?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I – I mean, I’m uncomfortable saying it’s a public service because I think he exposed secrets about intelligence gathering and intelligence work that puts Americans and people in the world at risk. So you can look and say, well, I’m glad we know about these things more, but it shouldn’t have happened that way. And he did it with a recklessness that has put lives at risk. And I’m not comfortable with that and never will be.

QUESTION: In the standoff that emerged between the – in the standoff that arose between Apple and the FBI over a San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, the FBI ultimately fairly quickly when they employed the help of the private sector found a workaround to get into that phone. Do you still believe there is clear government interest in requiring companies – in requiring backdoors on encrypted technologies by U.S. technology companies?

SECRETARY KERRY: Where there is legitimate probable cause, there is no reason that that information is more protected than other kinds of records and records that people have and keep, which is subject to lawful subpoena and lawful availability, where it meets a standard of probable cause with respect to our judicial system. And that’s why we have separate branches of government, because they act independently.

But I invite people – people need to go back 20 years and examine what kind of privacy we had 20 years ago. You could buy criminal records of people on – publicly. You can get bank records, finance records, mortgage – I mean, there’s an incredible amount of loss of privacy that’s taken place long before the internet actually came into being. People were subject to – they just didn’t know about it as much. So I think people have to be aware of the threats that we face in the world today. I think our government has been remarkably faithful to our fundamental beliefs and to our rights, and has been very careful to require standards, to require judicial review, to require different protections in order to secure people’s rights and freedom. And I’m proud of that.

I mean, as I think about it, we’ve gone overboard in many, many different ways in order to limit the intrusiveness, but at the same time protect the American people. And I will say to you bluntly that there are any number – in the double digits – of plots that have been interrupted, where many lives might have been lost were it not for our ability to be able to take massively gathered – not individual, but massively gathered and analyzed information and make sense out of it.

QUESTION: One last question.

SECRETARY KERRY: And anonymously gathered, I add.

QUESTION: Uber and Airbnb have been the breakout technology companies of this decade, but have run into a host of regulatory issues around the world. How do you balance local interests with the relentless rise of new technology?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, that’s always going to happen. That’s what makes it exciting. I mean, that’s kind of fun in a way. Look, this has always been true. I mean, when cotton gins came along and when we first had steam engines and different things over the years, different standards began to be applied as people learned more about what the danger or threat or downside of these things are. And that’s why we have rules and laws about tobacco or about lead paint or any number of things – seatbelts in cars, Ralph Nader and the whole development of those standards. There’s always going to be a tension in that. It’s going to be a Ying and Yang, a pull and a tug, from interests on the ground that want the protection and from people who want the freedom to just go do what they do. And it finds its balance, I think. It finds an equilibrium. And people in the United States of America are a hell of a lot safer today than they were 25 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago – live longer as a result, less injuries in the workplace, all kinds of benefits that have come. So it works its way out in the end.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, thank you so much for joining us today.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Good to be with you.

QUESTION: Great to have you.