Bad Things Happen When Politicians Think They Understand Technology

from the not-so-good dept

With health care reform out of the way, lots of politicians are pushing out new legislative ideas, hoping that Congress can now focus on other issues — so we’re seeing lots of bad legislation proposed. Let’s do a two for one post, highlighting two questionable bills that many of you have been submitting. The first, proposed by Senators Schumer and Graham, is technically about immigration reform, which is needed, but what’s scary is that the plan includes yet another plan for a national ID card. Didn’t we just go through this with Real ID, which was rejected by the states? Jim Harper, who follows this particular issue more than just about anyone, has an excellent breakdown of the proposal, questioning what good a national ID does, while also pointing to the potential harm of such a plan.

Then we have the big cybercrime bill put forth by Senators Hatch and Gillibrand Senators Rockefeller and Snowe (updated, since there are two separate cybersecurity bills, and its the Rockefeller/Snowe one that has people scared), that tries to deal with the “serious threat of cybercrime.” But, of course, it already has tech companies worried about the unintended consequences, especially when it requires complying with gov’t-issued security practices that likely won’t keep up with what’s actually needed:

“Despite all [the] best efforts, we do have concerns regarding whether government can rapidly recognize best practices without defaulting to a one-size-fits all approach,” they wrote.

“The NIST-based requirements framework in the bill, coupled with government procurement requirements, if not clarified, could have the unintended effect of hindering the development and use of cutting-edge technologies, products, and services, even for those that would protect our critical information infrastructure.”

They added the bill might impose a bureaucratic employee-certification program on companies or give the president the authority to mandate security practices.

This is one of those bills that sounds good for the headlines (cybercrime is bad, we need to stop it), but has the opposite effect in reality: setting up needless “standards” that actually prevent good security practices. It’s bills like both of these that remind us that technologically illiterate politicians making technology policy will do funky things, assuming that technology works with some sort of magic.

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Comments on “Bad Things Happen When Politicians Think They Understand Technology”

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31 Comments
Mark Blafkin (profile) says:

A little mixup in your post

Mike,

There are actually two different cybercrime proposals in the Senate. The cybercrime bill by Hatch and Gillibrand is a limited proposal that is focused on how the US government and State Dept. can help deal with international cases of cybercrime. It has the support of most of the tech industry.

The article you cite on tech companies RIGHTFULLY being worried about “unintended consequences” is talking about a completely different cybercrime bill that is cosponsored by Rockefeller and Snow.

has the support of most major tech firms

Ima Fish (profile) says:

yet another plan for a national ID card

Are these guys really this stupid? There are thousands upon thousands of people in the US who seriously think that Obama is turning the US into socialist dictatorship. Those group who completely freaked out over health insurance reform will go ballistic over this. And they’re already highly mobilized. There is no fricken way this could ever pass without blood being spilled.

Yosi says:

What's up with those "OMG, ID card" hysteria?

I really fail to understand why idea of ID card causing Americans so match fear and hysteria. Almost every single country have one. ALL civilized countries have one.
I happened to live in both dictatorship state, and democratic one, and both have similar ID system. Although, “democratic” version is more efficient.

What kind of “potential harm” are you talking about? I can’t imagine modern state without some kind of identification document for its citizens. Are you hoping that fellow policemen will know all town population personally? Americans already _have_ global ID (IIRC its “Social Security Number”); so what’s a problem with creating another one, probably more efficient. Truly mind boggling.

American says:

Re: Re: What's up with those "OMG, ID card" hysteria?

There is another group of socialist nuts who think that the purpose of government is to grow expotentially until it consumes all it touches, from cradle to grave. Idiot.
Try understanding what has made America truly special from other countries- it’s in the Constitution.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: What's up with those "OMG, ID card" hysteria?

New Zealand doesn’t.

actually, the way the law works, it Can’t. not one that actually achieved anything, anyway.

there’s this fun law about different entities (government departments, companies, etc) not being allowed to have their systems match up or something…

basically, social security numbers and ID cards just can’t happen without a law change to remove that law And another to create them (… and if the law is entrenched, which it might be, either a super majority or an Additional law change is required to allow the first change)

something to do with the privacy act or something.

Haywood (profile) says:

Re: What's up with those "OMG, ID card" hysteria?

My take on it is this; We have been traditionally allowed, to walk down the street with out ID of any sort. Say I decide to go for a walk on a nice evening, I’ve been hanging out at the house, in casual clothes, no wallet, watch, or anything, except perhaps, a bit of change in my pocket. I should be able to do that. It speaks of WWII Germany or Soviet Russia. Not in tune with a free country with guaranteed liberty and rights. The will counter; it is only to get on a transit system or enter a building, but just wait, it will be required to be on your person at all times eventually.

martymar says:

Re: What's up with those "OMG, ID card" hysteria?

> Americans already _have_ global ID (IIRC its “Social
> Security Number”); so what’s a problem with creating
> another one, probably more efficient.

Then why do we need another? I already have a SS# and a driver’s license. State’s also offer identification cards for non-drivers. Now I need a 3rd piece of ID? ..One that we most certainly will pay for.. and then pay to renew again and again. And then be jailed for not carrying it.

Papers, please.

Riddle me this.. what kind of ID did the 9/11 terrorists have? Oh, that’s right, 100% official government mandated, produced identification.

Please tell me again why we need another piece of ID and why this NEW ID would be better and not susceptible to the same problems we have now.

And you really think anything the government can do at this point will be efficient?

There is a cost to living in a free society.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants

Shit, they can’t even keep people murdering inside the most locked down, supermax prisons because no technology in the world can prevent a determined individual.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What's up with those "OMG, ID card" hysteria?

I still chuckle when I recall a few years back news about one of the biggest drug dealers in America. His name? Charles Manson.

What? Isn’t he in jail? And if they can’t stop Charles Manson from dealing drugs in FUCKING PRISON then what hope does the American government have in stopping the dealing fo drugs outside of prison?

ID cards for everyone! Yay!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“such as online shopping”

Umm… online shopping is very, very far from a “critical system.” Not as far away as Facebook and such, but still. If it went away tomorrow, I don’t think cities would burn, there would be mass famine, mass blackouts, or any of the other things that are prevented by actually critical systems.

Critical systems have no business being on the internet. If they can be brought down via the internet, the solution is not to tighten internet security, but to fire the idiots who connected that network up to the public one, then pull the plug on the bridge.

JerryAtrick (profile) says:

Mossad hit squad

I was talking with a colleague the other day about his trip to the UAE, and we couldn’t help but hit the topic of the recent assassination by the Mossad. The reason it’s relevant here is because of the so-called national ID cards. If someone could invent or come up with a useful national ID card that without fail linked a card to a physical characteristic on a person (let’s say it be a fingerprint or birthmark or facial scan), the inventor would become one of the wealthiest people on the face of the earth… I’m positive that as of right now, no one in the US political field has a clue about how this could be done, therefore, why are we even wasting time attempting to put it into legislation. I can’t help but think of this ‘invisible fence’ that was supposedly going to be put up along the mexican-american border. waste of taxpayer dollars and a way for a corporation to get more money.

DerekCurrie (profile) says:

Nostalgia: Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens

What is it with boisterous proclamations of ignorance from elected officials from Alaska?

“I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially.” . . .
“They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck. It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.” . . .

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