Governments controlling the way its citizens communicate and the content of that communication is nothing new. For citizens in China, Iran, and North Korea, limited rights regarding free speech and media and Internet censorship is a way of life. But the revised cybersecurity bill currently on the Senate floor, one which gives the President power to interfere with private sector computer networks in the event of an emergency, is causing quite a stir here in the states. Privacy advocates, telecommunications representatives, and business owners are looking for answers concerning what the bill really means, and whether or not it provides for censorship.
While it is understood that ‘information = power,’ that reasoning alone does not explain under what circumstances could the Obama administration require access to private sector computer networks and why – key details around which much of the controversy is centered. The current draft of the bill allows the President to take over private sector computer networks during a ‘cybersecurity emergency’ which, according to Senate Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) as reported by Cnet News, is defined as something which threatens our infrastructure — “from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records.”
The implications of the bill are many: the President can shut down your business if it is deemed ‘critical,’ employers in the tech industry may be required to follow hiring guidelines that mandate employees are ‘cybersecurity certified,’ businesses may be subject to periodic mapping of the data on its network, and companies may be forced to share information with the government upon request.
At first glance, the confusing bill seems Orwellian and Kafkaesqe at best. The reality, however, is the President has always held broad powers in regards to national security. Is this bill that much of a shock? It seems to do little than make explicit the Presidents powers as they relate to cybersecurity to avoid complaints from private sector business owners down the line.
What do you think? Does the cybersecurity bill come as a shock or is increasing government control over private computer networks to be expected in today’s day and age?