President Barack Obama’s recent mock cyber attack on New York City’s power infrastructure to support his new cybersecurity bill may have gotten the attention of legislators, but it has privacy advocates once again wondering who will be watching the watchers.
Driving the proposal is a recognized need by most in Congress that current cybersecurity laws do not afford enough protections in a rapidly evolving cyberterrorism environment. Proponents of Obama’s new bill say it will provide avenues for more collaboration between government security agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector.
Critics argue, however, that the proposed legislation, dubbed the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, is less about collaboration and more about providing the federal government with the authority to seize control of private-sector security systems. There are also fears that the measure could put undue financial strain on companies as they try to meet the demands of federal oversight, and perhaps even impede the development of genuinely useful private-sector security protocols.
Although provisions for allowing the President to “shut down” the Internet in the event of a threat to national cybersecurity were dropped from the bill amid public criticism, privacy advocates are quick to point out that the administration believes it retains this power under current law anyway, and that the real concern is that this bill would be the equivalent of giving a bigger gun and badge to a lawman who is already drunk with power.
Despite many Republicans’ acknowledgment of the compelling nature of the demonstration and even agreeing that new cybersecurtiy protections are needed, they have derided Obama’s legislation, calling it another attempt to saddle Americans with more bureaucracy. Naturally, Republicans are offering a competing bill, which means the likely outcome of Obama’s efforts will be neutralized. It remains to be seen, though, whether the Republican proposal would not also result in more government meddling in the business of private companies.
Photo courtesy of Whitehouse.gov
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