It's become a big news item. A bill brought forth by the Obama administration that was meant to slide by under the radar has now got everybody's attention and concern. Everybody. Why, because everybody uses the Internet and a new bill by the administration and revised by Senator Jay Rockefeller (Democrat) of West Virginia. It would give the President control of the Internet in emergencies. The irony is this act was conceived to protect our civil liberties.
There are two important questions to ask here.
One. What is an emergency? It's a relative statement. There needs to be definitions of what constitutes an emergency. And would any unrelated emergency provide a side door opening for the President to abuse this power? Perhaps Obama won't abuse that power, but what of the next President? Not all Presidents are the same.
The second question is big big one ...Do we want any president to have this power? Look at China. Look how they control the Internet. Do we want that in the US?
Before you weigh in on political points of view consider the following.
The Internet is decentralized management at its best. Everyone chips in with resources to run it. That is why one Internet provider can go down and the Internet is still there. In addition, you can't put the Internet in one location to control; no one entity has enough resources to manage it, not Google, not Microsoft. Nobody. This is why the Internet is de-centralized. If the bill passes, fundamental changes to the Internet connectivity across US borders would need to take place. Those would be vast and the expense enormous. All this would need to take place so that if and when the time comes for the President to "control" the Internet, he can then flick the switch so-to-speak. The bill as it is now has no clear intent or details. Imagine the control that ambiguity can do for someone in terms of power.
This is not just a writer's point of few. The scenario delineated above and vagueness of the bill is a fact for you to consider in your own day-to-day life (and pocketbook). Since the Cybersecurity Bill's inception in 2009 Internet experts have weighed in, Leslie Harris is CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology. She carefully stated, "The cybersecurity threat is real, but such a drastic federal intervention in private communications technology and networks could harm both security and privacy."
In this newest bill incarnation Larry Clinton, president of The Internet Security Alliance agrees. He represents your big Internet providers and players such as Verizon and VeriSign comments on both points in the following, "It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill."
Clinton is no savior to the common man either. He goes on to say that the Internet Security Alliance is "supportive of increased federal involvement to enhance cyber security, but we believe that the wrong approach, as embodied in this bill as introduced, will be counterproductive both from an national economic and national security perspective."
For instance, under this bill the government could seize your home computer and send it off to a Guantanamo type purgatory. A business can be restricted as to who they can hire and more. It's vast and coupled with the President gaining emergency control of the Internet it has all the trappings of the same big brother mentality China employs ...and exercises!
What is the point of the bill? Rockefeller outlines that bill will help in times of Internet crises. You know ...so it won't go down or suffer disruptions. As I pointed out above, the Internet is hundreds of thousands connected networks. You can't take them all out at the same time. The only way to disrupt the Internet is to take out the providers of the Internet. Fortunately the Internet still has many different types of providers from Telco and cable to satellite. The more there are the better off you and I are in terms of suffering a disruption.
So what does the government want? To control the infrastructure of the Internet or the computers on it? Again, it's vague and that affects you big time. What's not vague is putting the President in control. At least that much is made clear.
All this makes the point that our government may think they have a grasp on understanding the Internet because they want to control it. Sooner or later they'll figure it out. The fact is out government receives failing grades on operating its own networks!
Rockefeller whom chairs the Senate Commerce committee helped bring about the position of Cyber security Coordinator in an effort to better protect our country from cyber threats towards our utilities such as water and electricity along with banks and electronic health records. Since its inception in May of 2009, in three months the post is still vacant. Our "comprehensive national cyber security strategy" is being run by no one. So why is this bill even on the table now?
Either way, we are facing an important question. Do we want the government or even worse, one man in control of the Internet? Giving one man unprecedented control over an Internet kill switch isn't like having control of 'The Bomb' but it opens up Pandora's box in vast directions including privacy.
The bill itself has really not changed since it was first introduced. It's gone from not letting on what its real intent was to clearly stating what it wants and that is putting the President in control of the Internet. While any modification to the bill should be looked at by all US citizens closely now - the hot topic now is the one with the most impact. Do we want to put any President in control of the Internet?