Why did you leave a high-profile job in
Silicon Valley to take a post at the DNC?
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 di;erence.
During the election, the DNC su;ered a
damaging e-mail hack. What steps have
you taken to improve security?
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 o;cer.
What keeps you awake at night beyond
In electoral politics, unlike other jobs I’ve
had, you can’t move the ship dates. I’m
always worried whether we’ll have enough
time to make the kinds of technological
and cultural changes we need to make
across the party. We’re not just trying to
catch up to where we think the Republi-
cans are; we’re attempting to do a mas-
What progress have you made?
Campaigns are incredibly intense from
the outset, and campaign managers tend
to stick with what they’ve done before
or to make a few incremental changes.
We’re encouraging them to experiment
with more revolutionary technologies.
We’re creating the infrastructure to do
real-time analytics and to make data science tools widely available and easy to use.
And we’re working on a platform strategy
that allows us to easily plug in and vet new
technologies for things such as canvassing
and voter mobilization.
Do you see AI being used more extensively in future campaigns?
We need to be starting long-term, authen-
tic conversations today with every Ameri-
can in order to get to the next presidential
election in 2020. That means develop-
ing a deeper appreciation of the di;erent
issues that interest people. I think that
artificial intelligence and machine learn-
ing will help us to better understand and
segment audiences on a scale that’s not
been done before, even by some of the
biggest companies in the world.
Are companies like Twitter and Facebook
doing enough to tackle fake news and its
influence on political campaigns?
No, I don’t think my former employer
or Facebook are doing enough here. It’s
certainly a very di;cult problem. At the
heart of it are things like fake accounts,
hijacked accounts, and trolling accounts.
We’re now seeing outside researchers
doing some really interesting work to try
and identify the bots spreading fake news.
How can we get more transparency in
online political advertising?
Part of the answer is greater clarity from
social platforms. They need to make it
obvious who is paying for political ads
online and how much they’re spending.
This would fix a lot of the problem, but
there needs to be some formal regulation
of online political advertising too.
Digital voting systems are vulnerable to
hacking. What can be done to make them
From a technology standpoint, I think it’s
going to be a combination of open-source
software with verifiable code and paper
trails. If we had a lot of academics willing to help us with verifiable code, and
paper trails to show what the electronic
machines actually recorded, we’d be in
a much better place. I would love to see
national standards that every state would
need to follow when purchasing voting
Given your experience at Uber, when do
you think we’ll all be heading to the polls
in driverless cars?
Hopefully, a whole bunch of people will
be using them to vote in the 2024 presidential election.
Politics has become a technological arms race. In the 2008 and 2012 U.S.
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. Ra; Krikorian
wants to get the Democrats out ahead again. As the chief technology o;cer
of the Democratic National Committee, the MI T 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 MI T Technology Review’s San Francisco
bureau chief, Martin Giles.