CompTIA is best known for their vendor-neutral certifications in the IT industry. Instead of being certified specifically for Microsoft Windows or Cisco networks, you can pass an exam to show your proficiency in general IT topics such as desktop hardware and software troubleshooting, networking basics, and a variety of other topics including security, server administration, Linux administration, and more.
While the anti-certificate crowd scoffs at these as entry-level, they can be just a line on your resume that gets you past HR and into an interview or they can truly reflect a standard baseline of knowledge and familiarity with the subject matter along with a drive to learn more. As someone that holds CompTIA A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications, I wanted to look a little more into the organization to understand whom CompTIA was representing.
As I paid for my certification tests and wore their name as a badge on my resume, I wanted to make sure they were also representing me. Industry giants already have lobbyists looking out for their profits while your lone IT Professional, MSP, or corporate IT might not have their best interest represented. These interests could vary from stronger consumer privacy rights to fewer jobs being outsourced or replaced with H1-B visa holders. On the CompTIA website, you can find an explanation of their Public Advocacy efforts:
CompTIA’s Advocacy department champions member-driven business and IT advocacy priorities that impact the entire continuum of information technology companies – from small IT service providers and software developers to large equipment manufacturers and communications service providers.
We focus our IT advocacy priorities along three main practice areas: federal commercial policy, state government affairs and international policy. Of particular interest are those issues that accelerate the innovation cycle, build a 21st century workforce and maintain secure, open access to the Internet.
CompTIA gives eyes, ears and a voice to our members and allows them to quickly and comprehensively understand policy developments – and then do something about it. We foster an environment for our members to succeed in information technology through comprehensive global, national and regional information technology advocacy as well as high-level business intelligence that delivers an edge in the marketplace.
The whole reason I was questioning the organization (and I probably should have done so much earlier) stemmed from two recent press releases that CompTIA published in support of controversial subjects, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
CISA and TPP have been not without their critics and at a quick glance, CompTIA’s stance appears to be positive and supporting of the controversial bills. CISA was passed by the senate without addressing the privacy issues that many have opposed. The EFF was much more direct in their condemning of CISA’s passage in a post titled EFF Disappointed as CISA Passes Senate, writing:
The passage of CISA reflects the misunderstanding many lawmakers have about technology and security. Computer security engineers were against it. Academics were against it. Technology companies, including some of Silicon Valley’s biggest like Twitter and Salesforce, were against it. Civil society organizations were against it. And constituents sent over 1 million faxes opposing CISA to Senators.
Compare that headline with CompTIA’s applauding the passage, COMPTIA APPLAUDS SENATE PASSAGE OF THE CYBERSECURITY INFORMATION SHARING ACT (CISA), and it seems the CompTIA may not be representing your interests. The press release does mention the need to protect individual privacy. It depends on you whether the language is strong enough:
We urge the House and Senate to meet in conference as soon as possible to close the gap on differences between their information sharing bills. It is critical that a voluntary framework for information sharing be signed in to law in order to best protect our nation’s critical infrastructure and our individual privacy.
It seems to be more in line with the industry representatives who want the legal immunity even if it costs individual privacy.
CTIA (whose members include AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile): “The bill approved offers a constructive framework for bi-directional information sharing that will strengthen America’s cyber defenses.”
TIA (whose members include AT&T and Verizon): “The legislation passed by the Senate today bolsters our cyber defenses by providing the liability protections needed to encourage the voluntary sharing of cyber threat information.”
The EFF takes a consistent stance with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) which happened behind closed doors and concluded from seven years of secret discussions. The agreement impacts everything from agricultural trade to copyright enforcement. The EFF published their opinion in Users Have Been Betrayed in the Final TPP Deal—Help Us Tell Washington How You Feel:
Throughout this time EFF and our partner organizations, including the Our Fair Deal coalition, tried to play by the USTR’s rules. We wrote whitepapers and open letters, we held side-events for negotiators, we gave presentations (during the limited window when we were allowed to do so), and we spoke with USTR officials bilaterally. But successive leaks of the TPP have demonstrated that unless you are a big business sector, the USTR simply doesn’t care what you have to say. The latest evidence of this is that it was only when Google finally weighed in on the need for more robust support for fair use in the TPP, that the USTR budged on that issue—having ignored our similar calls for years.
CompTIA again offers a positive-spin, cautious approach with COMPTIA STATEMENT ON CONCLUSION OF TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP NEGOTIATIONS:
“We will review this agreement closely with our members once the final text is released, and we look forward to working with Congress to ensure that TPP and all trade agreements protect and grow the tech industry.”
Should CompTIA be as incensed as the EFF? They certainly represent different interests but as a major certification source for IT professionals, individuals may feel represented by CompTIA. It seems CompTIA is walking a tightrope with their very tempered stance between industry and individual interests. IT Pros that disagree with their statements or approach could feel that they have made a poor investment and not list their certifications any more.
Just as polite conversation avoids religion and politics, any organization takes the risk of dividing their members when they issue a statement that falls into those categories. Ironically, I am doing the same thing by bringing attention to the issue…