SAN FRANCISCO (MIT Technology Review) — Politics has become a technological arms race. In the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections, the Democrats outgunned their rivals. In 2016, the Republicans fought back, using big-data analytics and microtargeting of online ads to help propel Donald Trump into the White House. Raffi Krikorian wants to get the Democrats out ahead again. As the chief technology officer of the Democratic National Committee, the MIT graduate is reshaping his party’s tech strategy. Krikorian, an expert in software engineering, previously led Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center and got its first fleet of driverless cars on the road. Before that, he headed the team that managed Twitter’s tech infrastructure. He spoke with MIT Technology Review’s San Francisco bureau chief, Martin Giles.
TR: Why did you leave a high-profile job in Silicon Valley to take a post at the DNC?
RK: After the presidential election, I just felt that the world was broken and I needed to find a place where I could apply what I’d learned in my previous roles to see if I could make a difference.
TR: During the election, the DNC suffered a damaging e-mail hack. What steps have you taken to improve security?
RK: Security’s an arms race. We have a target on us in the same way that most multinational corporations do, but we don’t have the budget of a big company. All our services such as e-mail have now been moved to cloud infrastructure run by companies like Microsoft and Google. We’re also focusing on culture change. We actively phish our own people and publicize internally which teams have the worst compliance. We’re also in the final stages of hiring a chief security officer.
TR: What keeps you awake at night beyond security?