Posts Tagged ‘IT policy


One Congresswoman’s Perspective on Why We Don’t Have National Cybersecurity or Privacy Policies

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.


Can the Net Neutrality Debate have a More Neutral Outcome?

Today’s FCC meeting on net neutrality could likely mean we are a good step closer to some segmented treatment of internet traffic. This has been seen as likely for the past few months, given the January federal appeals court ruling striking down certain FCC rules on it and the Agency’s subsequent backing away on those rules. While I’ve been getting desperate emails on the pending ‘end of the internet’ from various causes this afternoon, I’m encouraged by the interpretation of today’s events by the Center for Democracy and Technology, my favorite go-to resource when I really want to understand a tricky IT policy issue.

CDT notes that the FCC Chairman is a former entrepreneur and VC, so he understands the stakes. The FCC is offering an unusually long 60-day period for public comment on its pending Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (what they’re proposing as the way forward) so they’re open to a lot of input, which they’re sure to get. In its proposal, mobile broadband may be treated differently from fixed. It might treat interconnection (how you physically access the internet) separately by forcing disclosure of congestion at interconnection points. The NPRM will also apparently probe a lot of specifics around what is known as Title II, the FCC’s authority to ban unjust or unreasonable access to telecommunication services, so they know what might be most appropriate and how to apply it. While internet access clearly fits this service category, the political war over the modern interpretation of this authority has pitted big service providers against those who push or consume content. The government is in the  middle.

So I’m now thinking the ultimate outcome in this situation is not a slam-dunk. There might be at least some middle ground to be found in this highly complex situation. The FCC’s NPRM should be out shortly, then it will be a spirited 60 days of public debate before any ultimate ruling.  This is a fascinating issue that stands to alter our default expectations for an always-on existence we’ve known since the dawn of the internet age. Millenials, the world as you’ve always known it might be about to change.


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