Where do 2024 U.S. presidential candidates stand on privacy, surveillance, and AI?

Digital freedom
13 mins

Staying informed about the 2024 presidential election is an important aspect of being a voter, even for those abroad who might need to rely on a USA VPN to access campaign news. It’s equally important to be aware of candidates’ positions on privacy issues as our lives become increasingly more connected.

As the 2024 U.S. presidential election approaches, party candidates are fiercely campaigning for the nomination. Their positions on hot-button topics like abortion rights, taxes, war, and gun control are well-publicized, but their views on privacy in the digital era aren’t as well-defined.

In the age of big data and artificial intelligence, it’s more important than ever for voters to understand where their preferred candidates stand on issues like mass surveillance, AI, and cybersecurity. These topics have the potential to revolutionize our society, but they also pose significant risks to our civil liberties.

We delve into a few of the leading 2024 presidential candidates’ views on critical aspects of privacy, and what their potential policies would mean for Americans if they’re elected president.

Who’s running for president in 2024?

In the 2024 United States presidential race, at the time of publishing, 8 candidates were vying for the highest office. This includes two Republicans, three Democrats, and three independent candidates. Notably, the spotlight remains on the familiar faces from the 2020 election: President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. 

Among the Democratic contenders, President Biden faces only two challengers: Marianne Williamson and Dean Phillips. On the Republican side, notable figures in the race include Nikki Haley and Ryan Binkley.

In the independent category, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West, and Jill Stein round out the roster. The 2024 United States elections are scheduled for Tuesday, November 5, 2024.

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The importance of digital governance

Where do Biden and Trump stand?

Where do other U.S. presidential hopefuls stand?

The importance of digital governance

Digital governance is the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of public institutions and services. It can also foster citizen participation, inclusion, and empowerment in the decision-making processes that affect their lives.

Digital governance is becoming increasingly important when it comes to American civil liberties as ICTs are now used in virtually every aspect of government operations, from delivering services to citizens to making policy decisions. 

While several components fall under digital governance, here are key aspects that voters should consider in the 2024 presidential race:

Privacy and mass surveillance

Privacy is a fundamental human right. It allows us to control our own information and to make choices about how it is used. Mass surveillance, on the other hand, is the collection of data about large numbers of people—usually without their knowledge or consent. Mass surveillance can potentially harm free speech and can lead to the persecution of minority groups.

In the U.S., the National Security Agency (NSA) has the legal authority under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to collect electronic communications without warrants for national security purposes. This has historically included data from tech companies and internet traffic.

Artificial intelligence

AI is a rapidly advancing technology with the potential to transform many aspects of our lives. It also presents risks, such as bias, discrimination, and privacy concerns, particularly with the rise of deepfake technology. Voters need to know how candidates plan to use AI in government, including what regulations and safeguards they propose to address these risks and protect individual privacy.

Digital inclusion

Digital inclusion is the ability of all people to access and use digital technologies. Digital technologies are essential for participation in society and the economy. Voters should consider how the candidates plan to ensure that all Americans have access to the digital technologies they need.


Cybersecurity is essential for protecting government systems and data, as well as the personal information of citizens. Voters should consider how the candidates plan to strengthen cybersecurity and protect the government and its people from cyberattacks.

Where do Biden and Trump stand?

As the two leading candidates for the 2024 Democratic and Republican presidential primaries, with both having held a seat in the Oval Office, we examine Biden and Trump’s stances on digital governance.

Joe Biden (D)

Privacy and mass surveillance 

Navigating the delicate balance between national security and privacy, President Biden’s administration has shown support for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2008, specifically Section 702. As mentioned above, this important legislation empowers the NSA to conduct extensive surveillance. While argued as essential for national security, this move has also sparked substantial debate. Critics, especially privacy advocates, express concern over the implications for civil liberties, particularly regarding the warrantless surveillance of American citizens. Interestingly, this stance marks a departure from Biden’s previous objections to such surveillance measures.

The Biden administration is also endorsing a comprehensive financial surveillance system, aimed at curbing tax evasion, indicating a propensity to use surveillance tools for regulatory purposes. While intended to address financial malpractices, these measures also raise questions about their impact on financial privacy and the extent of governmental intrusion into private transactions.


In the realm of artificial intelligence, President Biden has taken a proactive stance. His executive order on AI is a significant leap towards a balanced approach, prioritizing the development of AI that is safe, secure, and trustworthy. 

This executive order is part of a broader strategy to position the United States at the forefront of AI innovation. It involves establishing foundational standards and guidelines that govern the development and use of AI. These standards are designed to ensure that AI technologies benefit society as a whole while mitigating potential risks, such as biases and discrimination.

A key aspect of Biden’s approach is the focus on combating AI bias. The executive order addresses the risks of irresponsible AI use, which can lead to discrimination in areas like justice, healthcare, and housing. 

Digital inclusion 

Digital inclusion is a cornerstone of the Biden administration’s agenda, propelled by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This law funnels substantial investments into programs like the 42.45 billion USD Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program and the 2.75 billion USD Digital Equity Act (DE Act). These initiatives represent a concerted effort to bridge the digital divide, enhance digital literacy, and ensure widespread access to technology.

We’re committed to working with all who share those values to shape the rules of the road that are going to govern our progress in the 21st century, including on issues of cybersecurity and emerging technologies so that future generations continue to reap the benefits of liberty and democracy, as we have.


The National Cybersecurity Strategy aims to protect various critical sectors and imposes cybersecurity regulations on sectors like electric utilities and nuclear facilities. This strategy is expected to extend minimum requirements to other vital sectors as well. Additionally, it emphasizes more aggressive regulation to secure critical systems such as banks, electric utilities, and hospitals. A key aspect of this strategy is shifting the responsibility for preventing cyberattacks from individuals to large corporations.

Donald Trump (R)

Privacy and mass surveillance 

Trump’s approach to privacy and mass surveillance heavily favored security and intelligence gathering, often overshadowing digital privacy and civil liberties. His campaign and presidency underscored this priority, advocating government surveillance of specific groups and aligning with practices that broadened the U.S. government’s surveillance reach. 

We will invest heavily in offensive cyber capabilities to disrupt our enemies, including terrorists who rely heavily on internet communications.

Trump’s administration, entering a political climate ripe for surveillance expansion, maintained a critical view of the NSA’s operations under the Obama administration, suggesting an acceptance of robust surveillance powers. His stance on encryption and internet privacy, particularly his signing of a bill that repealed the Federal Communications Commission’s online privacy protections, indicates a preference for surveillance and intelligence over individual privacy rights.


Trump’s presidency was marked by active engagement in advancing AI. The February 2019 launch of the American Artificial Intelligence Initiative and executive orders to integrate AI into government operations and expand the AI talent pool in the federal government underscored his commitment to establishing the U.S. as a leader in AI development.

Digital inclusion 

Addressing the broadband gap, especially in rural areas, was a key focus during Trump’s administration. Efforts included leveraging federal assets for rural broadband deployment and streamlining federal permitting processes. An executive order was issued to facilitate these efforts, reflecting a targeted approach to reducing the digital divide and promoting digital inclusion in underserved areas.


Trump made concerted efforts to advance U.S. cybersecurity during his presidency. The signing of an executive order in May 2017 to fortify federal network cybersecurity and the creation of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) marked significant advancements. 

The administration’s approach to international cybersecurity, particularly in preventing foreign technology companies from gaining influence, and upgrading the U.S. Cyber Command to a unified combatant command, was central to its strategy. These actions aimed to establish a robust defense against cyber threats from adversarial states. Yet, the administration also drew criticism for its handling of election security and the spread of online disinformation, actions that were perceived as undermining the democratic processes they were meant to protect.

Where do other U.S. presidential hopefuls stand?

In the race for the 2024 U.S. presidency, the spotlight often misses how candidates, who haven’t yet served in the Oval Office, view critical issues like digital governance and privacy. While their positions on mainstream topics like the economy, healthcare, and national security are frequently discussed, their views on digital governance often remain in the background.

To get a clearer picture of where these presidential hopefuls stand on the rights of Americans in the digital realm, we focus on their perspective on the NSA. The NSA’s role in surveillance and intelligence gathering offers a window into how these candidates might balance national security with individual privacy rights.

Nikki Haley (R)

Haley’s approach to privacy and social media emphasizes national security concerns. She has proposed mandating social media users to verify their identities with their legal names to counter anonymous posts she views as national security threats. She argues that this measure would help combat misinformation and division spread by foreign bots using anonymity. However, her proposal has been met with criticisms over potential infringements on privacy rights and the historical value of anonymous speech in the U.S. Acknowledging these concerns, Haley later clarified that her issue is primarily with foreign adversaries, not anonymous American users exercising free speech.

Every person on social media should be verified by their name. [An anonymous comment] is a national security threat because it can spread misinformation.

In terms of NSA surveillance, Haley advocates for privacy protections, opposing the collection of basic metadata from citizens’ phone calls without a warrant demonstrating probable cause of criminal activity. This stance reflects her preference for safeguarding privacy rights and ensuring government surveillance is conducted with strict legal adherence.

Jill Stein (I)

Stein’s stance on privacy and surveillance is critical of the NSA’s metadata collection program. She views this program as a stark infringement on civil liberties and privacy rights. Advocating for stringent legal oversight, Stein believes that the NSA should only collect basic metadata from citizens’ phone calls if backed by a warrant showing probable cause of criminal activity. This position underscores her commitment to upholding privacy rights and ensuring that surveillance activities are conducted within the bounds of the law.

We have become the most surveilled population in history, and the potential for abuse is enormous.

Similar to Ramaswamy’s stance, Stein has stated that if elected president, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden would have a role in her cabinet. By aligning with Snowden, who exposed extensive global surveillance programs, Stein highlights her prioritization of privacy. 

Ron DeSantis (R) – Dropped out

DeSantis’ views on privacy and the NSA reflect a cautious stance towards government overreach. He has expressed opposition to the NSA’s warrantless collection of citizens’ phone call metadata, advocating for the protection of Americans’ right to privacy. 

Our Digital Bill of Rights will ensure Floridians are protected from the overreach and surveillance we have seen from Big Tech companies.

Further emphasizing his commitment to digital privacy, DeSantis—who has since dropped out of the running for president—has championed a Digital Bill of Rights in Florida. This initiative aims to safeguard residents from invasive tech practices, exemplified by his ban on TikTok and other foreign-linked platforms on state government devices. Additionally, his policies seek to curtail Big Tech’s potential influence on free speech and political discourse, as evidenced by his measures to ensure transparency in social media content moderation and to prevent the unjust de-platforming of political candidates. 

Vivek Ramaswamy (R) – Dropped out

Even though he dropped out of the presidential race on January 16, Ramaswamy’s stance on privacy and government transparency is centered around supporting whistleblower rights. He has stated his intention to pardon Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and whistle-blower Edward Snowden, viewing Snowden’s actions of exposing government surveillance as “heroic.” 

[Snowden] took a risk that he didn’t have to take in order to actually expose to the public what the public did not already know, and change that would not have happened in terms of delivering accountability to the government.

Additionally, Ramaswamy opposes the government exerting pressure on social media companies to censor political speech. He advocates for the preservation of free expression, voicing concerns about government overreach in digital communication spaces. This stance reflects a commitment to protecting individual rights to privacy and free speech, emphasizing a balance between government oversight and personal liberties. 

Chris Christie (R) – Dropped out

Chris Christie’s presidential campaign underscores a strong commitment to national security, often at the expense of privacy concerns. He advocates for the NSA’s robust surveillance capabilities, including the reinstatement of the metadata collection program. This stance reflects his belief that national security needs outweigh the debates surrounding individual privacy rights. Christie has consistently defended the NSA’s spying powers, even amid criticism, highlighting his support for expansive intelligence-gathering measures.

The end of the metadata program has made America weaker and more vulnerable. If Republicans in Congress really want to do something to protect American families, they should fight for the restoration of the metadata program and not take no for an answer.

In contrast to libertarian views, Christie argues for enhanced military and surveillance capabilities, challenging opponents of the Patriot Act and similar legislation. He regards concerns over government surveillance as exaggerated, focusing instead on the importance of these measures in combating terrorism.

Cenk Uygur (D) – Dropped out

Cenk Uygur approaches the issue of privacy and surveillance with a critical perspective, particularly regarding the NSA and its collection of Americans’ data. He expresses deep skepticism about the NSA’s integrity in managing the vast surveillance data it accumulates, including information on U.S. citizens. Highlighting alleged instances of abuse, such as NSA agents using their access to surveil ex-partners, Uygur questions the government’s trustworthiness in handling personal data that constitutionally should be private.

Intelligence shouldn’t be a danger to the values of the republic it purports to serve.

His stance reflects a broader apprehension about government overreach and a lack of accountability in handling personal information, emphasizing the need for stronger safeguards against privacy invasions.

What do you think of each presidential candidate’s stance? Let us know in the comments below. 

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article has been compiled through research from a wide variety of reputable sources. These sources include Wikipedia, executive orders from the White House, articles from news organizations such as Slate, ACLU, Reason, Forbes, Daily Dot, Reuters, National Geographic, Brookings, Politico, AP News, and others, as well as official blog posts from organizations like the National Skills Coalition and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

ExpressVPN is not affiliated or associated with any of the political parties mentioned in these sources. We aim to present this information impartially and solely for informative purposes. We are committed to providing accurate and balanced content to our readers, without any intention of influencing or swaying public opinion or political stances.

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