Cybersecurity Bill Would Destroy Privacy Rights

Credit: Tom Murphy

You know the assault on our privacy has reached an unthinkable level when even the DHS are calling it a bad idea. 

The Deputy Director of the DHS, Alejandro Mayorkas wrote (PDF) to the Democrat Senator Al Franken to argue that proposed changes to American legislation could undermine privacy of information.

It seems unlikely that the DHS would stick up for the privacy or the rights of US citizens by sending such a letter. Yet it has grounds for getting involved over the issue.

He writes:

“IF CYBER THREAT INDICATORS ARE DISTRIBUTED AMONGST MULTIPLE AGENCIES RATHER THAN INITIALLY PROVIDED THROUGH ONE ENTITY, THE COMPLEXITY – FOR BOTH GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESSES – AND INEFFICIENCY OF ANY INFORMATION SHARING PROGRAM WILL MARKEDLY INCREASE.”

Franken is the Senator attempting to stop the legislation proposed by his Republican counterpart Senator Richard Burr. This CISA legislation if passed into law would allow commercial companies in the US to hand over the details of their customers to the government to prevent cyber attacks.

The proposed legislation would not make the companies anonymized the information to any government department, which requested it. Further more such companies would be virtually immune from prosecution or lawsuits from their customers for handing over information without their permission. People would not even know what information had been given to the government.

Perhaps the main problem the DHS would have with the proposed legislation is that it would have no control over the information that got sent to each branch or department of the federal government. It is not particularly bothered about the erosion of privacy laws yet it is concerned about the loss of its control over the information going to the government.

Sen. Franken also said:

“I think all Americans have a fundamental right to privacy—and it’s especially important in light of advancing technologies that continually threaten to outpace our laws.

The Department of Homeland Security’s letter makes it overwhelmingly clear that, if the Senate moves forward with this cybersecurity information-sharing bill, we are at risk of sweeping away important privacy protections and civil liberties, and we would actually increase the difficulty and complexity of information sharing, undermining our nation’s cybersecurity objectives.”

Should the CISA legislation make into law then the position of the DHS would be much weaker, in fact it would have no control over the information flowing into the federal agencies. It would not even know how much information was being passed on, or how in depth it was. The DHS would lose track of what was being received and thus could not provide citizens with a paper trail of the information that the federal governments hold on them.

The DHS is opposed to the bill as it currently stands, though its opposition to it may be diluted depending on any amendments. It is a strange thought that the DHS are working with Senator Franken to stop the CISA legislation.

Sources:

http://www.rpc.senate.gov/legislative-notices/s-754_cybersecurity-information-sharing-act-of-2015

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/08/04/us_cyber_laws_harm_privacy_security/

http://www.franken.senate.gov/files/documents/150731DHSresponse.pdf

https://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=3226