I was able to attend an interesting discussion yesterday hosting Congresswoman Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Michigan who journeyed all the way to Santa Clara, CA in the interest of furtherig dialog and understanding between herself as a Representative on the powerful Appropriations Committee and the high tech community. Kudos to her for the sincere outreach, and to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group for putting the event on.
During the event, I was able to ask for her opinion on where Congress stood with passing any cyber security or data privacy legislation in the foreseeable future. While her response was candid, I must admit it was a bit of a surprise – she said she didn’t think I’d want them passing any legislation because they don’t understand the issues, and that most Congresspeople are inept when it comes to technology – even using it. Well there, at least somebody called it out.
She went on to sound the alarm (as was also heard from Senator Saxby Chambliss at last August’s Silicon Valley Cyber Security Summit) that Congress needs a wake-up call, that they’re failing the American people on this issue, that we need to get our act together, and and and… Representative McCollum went on to bemoan the volume of issues and work to keep up on, the lack of staff capacity due to budget cuts, Congressional discord, the Tea Party, etc. etc. etc. It was sadly the kind of dodge from an uncomfortable question that seems an auto-response from those in elected office. Lot’s of ‘we need to’s’ and ‘we shoulds’ but no action. At this point I could only see an abrogation of duty, but what else is new? These threats are real and core to national defense and well being. I wonder how many in the Congress might think they should actually learn about technology – goes to show the effects of having minions take care of all of that pesky stuff for you.
Given the pace at which cyber attacks and malware are accelerating; given the unprecedented collection of data from everywhere about everyone; and if the Gentlewoman from Minnesota’s position is correct – and I fear it is, we’ll likely be in for an uninformed, ill-advised Congressional knee jerk reaction when some big time dookie hits. Whomever has their ear about the correct course of action at such time is likely to influence policy that will last for many years. As the Patriot Act shows, once they do something, they don’t un-do it, no matter how much it might need undoing.
Keep changing your passwords folks.