Online Privacy and Security – Moving Closer to Legislative Action

When I commented in May on the CISPA bill that was causing an uproar in policy circles, it seemed as though the Communicator’s world might change quickly. While CISPA made good political theater in April and ultimately did pass the House of Representatives, the bill is now quietly spending the summer in the Senate where, insiders tell me, language is being reworked to at least somewhat soften concerns about privacy invasion and civil rights. President Obama has also threatened a veto, if it comes to that.


Regardless of whether or not CISPA passes, some legislative action on privacy and cyber security is likely to come this year. The two are closely inter-twined, and one often is used in rationale for the other when justifying Congressional action.


There are multiple bills in play, such as the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 [often called the Lieberman-Collins bill], The Promoting and Enhancing Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Effectiveness Act [PRECISE Act], and several more. Each has varying degrees of support from politicians from both sides, and various degrees of permitted government intrusion into corporate and personal information.


I think mainstream users are ready for a change. Just this week, Facebook is grabbing negative headlines with its stealth conversion of every user’s email to @facebook.com from their original email address. And the new “Find Friends Nearby” feature [nicknamed ‘the stalking app’] is magnifying attention on and resistance to proximity networks, which up to now have not been broadly used. As such technology goes more mainstream, users are getting fed up – and parents are getting more worried. Communicators and marketers take note that boundaries are being crossed.


The reality is that better protection of our online identity and experience is needed, especially for children. And the cyber wars are heating up, as evidenced by the recent Flame attack on Iran and alleged attacks by the Chinese on U.S. government and business networks.


With so many bills in play, it’s almost guaranteed that some legislation will pass this year.  After the August recess, be prepared for the heightened stagecraft that will invariably come in the build-up to the election – security is always a popular campaign issue. Let’s hope our legislative leaders can work to a reasonable balance. Communicators should stay tuned as passage of any bill into law will touch our work in ways to be determined.

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