Proposed law would give White House ‘cybersecurity emergency’ powers over the Internet

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Internet King and America’s news editor Matt Drudge is freaking out right now, complete with his trademark scare quotes. (I swear, you could probably write a thesis about how Drudge influences the American media.) There’s a bill that’s currently floating around the U.S. Senate that would, in times of emergency, put the Internet, in a sense, in control of the White House. And then the government will make you eat fruits and vegetables! Tyranny!

The bill, still only a draft (and one that’s sure to be amended again given the reaction we’ve seen today), was put together by Sen. Jay Rockefeller. What it does it allows the president to “declare a cybersecurity emergency,” with such a decree even affecting non-government computers that are still critical the country. It would also create a new, government certification that “cybersecurity professionals” would have to pass in certain private sector and governmental situations.

A few organizations are a little uneasy with the bill. (Remember: it’s just a bill, and one that has already been revised in the past few months. Don’t be surprised if nothing at all comes from all of this.) The Internet Security Alliance says it “cannot support the bill” until it’s further clarified exactly what’s going on. (Not that I see why the Internet Security Alliance is any more trustworthy than the federal government, but that’s a fight for somewhere else.) The EFF has also expressed concerns about the federal government getting involved in the private sector Internet.

And while I’m not about to freak out over a bill, I can understand, on some level, people’s concerns with giving the White House the ability to turn to, say, Verizon during a huge catastrophe and saying, “We’re sending someone to monitor the situation in your server room ASAP. Please fully cooperate with him.” It just seems weird, you know? On the other hand, if we can trust the president to declare federal states of emergency—think hurricanes and the like—why can’t we trust him with the ability to declare a “cyber” state of emergency?

But, as I so like to end these “controversial” posts these days, our planet could easily by wiped out by a huge meteor and there’d be nothing at all you, private sector or otherwise, you can do about it. Or there could be a huge earthquake and wipe out cities all along the west coast. The point is, freaking out at the drop of a hat cannot be healthy.

That’s all.

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