DR: You’re in the Valley to meet with Facebook and Google. Neither company is really known for its commitment to privacy, and each makes money off your personal information. So what’s your message to those companies?
RP: That’s not exactly true. I don’t entirely accept that premise. What I would say is you can track with Google, and share some information to get a service. It’s an exchange. As long as it’s part of an exchange and they uphold your contract, I’m all for that. What I worry about is where the government comes in, through the Patriot Act, and says you can’t be sued for giving [subscriber] information to the government. So my message to them will be to stand up and defend privacy. Ultimately, the people going after privacy are the government, and if people mistake Google for government, then we’re in for a big problem. If people begin to mistake Gmail for Government-Mail, they’re liable to get swept up in the same net of people supporting privacy. I see a distinction, and I think it’s in their interest as a company to fight hard for privacy, fight hard to protect the contractual arrangement their customers have with them.
DR: So you’ll try to get them to support your email privacy bill?
RP: Yeah, but I think most of them already support it, to tell you the truth. I don’t know if they have an official position, but I haven’t met anyone out here in California who doesn’t support the concept. It’s actually a very popular concept, and also an indication about how someone who’s a libertarian-leaning Republican can have an appeal in California, not only for Silicon Valley folks but voters in general. Libertarian-Republican issues on privacy are something that can resonate.