House Goes Orwellian in Response to Recent Hacks

Three perspectives on the PCNA and CISA, which many believe are simply ways to broaden the powers of the government to collect digital information and advance a 1984-ish, Orwellian agenda.

  • PCNA Passes
  • TechCrunch – They had no choice, folks
  • ACLU/Wyden – “Cybersecurity” bills just sneaky ways to expand spying
  • EFF – Not buying the propaganda
  • Prioritizing Security AND Privacy

PCNA Passes

On April 22, the House of Representatives voted in favor of the Protecting Cyber Networks Act. In fact, Democrats and Republicans supported the bill, which passed by an incredible margin due to bipartisan support: 307-116. The stated intention of the bill is to get pesky laws out of the way, facilitating transfer of security details between American businesses. In turn, the idea goes, we can reduce vulnerabilities and prevent breaches – such as the ones perpetrated against Sony, Anthem, global banks, and the US State Department.

The bills are backed by President Obama and some professional organizations, a few of which are IT-specific. Here are some perspectives.

TechCrunch – They had no choice, folks

“Privacy advocates have criticized information-sharing bills as surveillance bills by another name,” explained TechCrunch. “They worry that sharing cyber threat information with the government will give surveillance agencies even more access to citizens’ personal information.”

Those who really think the bill is just absolutely great and not a horrible threat to personal freedom say that an amendment was tacked to the bill so that individual rights are better protected – in other words, it pays better attention to the issue of data privacy than does the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

The Protecting Cyber Networks Act removes certain data related to individual users on both ends, both within the business and within the government system collecting the information. Advocates also say that the legislation is better designed to prevent government abuse. The National Security Agency ostensibly won’t see the information, for instance.

While the PCNA takes privacy into better account than CISA does, TechCrunch cited critics who believe it’s still going to mean that the government is getting a green light to be a peeping Tom in the window of our digital lives. Those opponents argue that it will be easy for the federal government to misuse the data. CISA didn’t get to the floor of the Senate for a vote in 2014 because privacy was the fundamental concern.

Now, everyone is filled with fright about hacking – and for good reason. In the last year, Sony Pictures was viciously attacked; the White House and State Department were both hacked; and almost 80 million users’ information was stolen from the nation’s second-largest health insurer, Anthem.

“In the past, Congress overlooked the issue of cybersecurity because it faced no public pressure to address it,” argued TechCrunch. “But after these high-profile hacks, it has backed itself into a corner where it has no option but to pass legislation that will address them.”

Were they really backed into a corner, though? Let’s look at a couple of other perspectives.

ACLU/Wyden – “Cybersecurity” bills just sneaky ways to expand spying

No one in Washington or anywhere could really disagree that data security is a serious threat that must be handled immediately. However, as the ACLU sees it, simply stating that a bill is intended to help with security as a publicity stunt isn’t the same thing as passing a security bill. While national leadership could focus on truly improving security, according to the ACLU, this bill is a bait-and-switch that runs roughshod over personal privacy rules, possibly sending huge amounts of personal data to federal agencies – such as the NSA.

Remember the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, the bill that’s even worse than the PCNA? That bill passed out of the Senate Intelligence Committee in flying colors as well, 14-1.  Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (remember, these people are technically allowed to go against the party line) cast the only vote against the bill.

“I am concerned that the bill the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reported today lacks adequate protections for the privacy rights of American consumers,” commented Wyden, “and that it will have a limited impact on U.S. cybersecurity.”

The basic message shared by Wyden and the ACLU is that there is no reason for us to have to give up our privacy in the name of security.

EFF – Not buying the propaganda

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, like the ACLU, is fundamentally dedicated to protecting the civil liberties of the individual user. The organization banded together with more than four dozen like-minded groups that submitted letters to Congress in opposition to the two bills.

As indicated in the letter signed by the EFF, CISA and the PCNA are spying bills, not security bills; and the former legislation is particularly troubling.

“CISA would significantly increase the National Security Agency’s (NSA) access to personal information,” stated the EFF, “and authorize the federal government to use that information for a myriad of purposes unrelated to cybersecurity.”

Prioritizing Security AND Privacy

Security and privacy aren’t at odds.

At Superb Internet, we care deeply about meeting the compliance and security needs of our clients, as indicated by our various national and international certifications. However, we are also fundamentally dedicated to the privacy of our users – just take a look at how much they like us.

By Kent Roberts

Photo via Wikipedia

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