Senator Ron Wyden Slams Cybersecurity Legislation Proposals For Eroding Trust & Privacy

from the privacy-should-be-the-default,-not-the-exception dept

Senator Ron Wyden took to the floor of the Senate earlier this week to speak out against pretty much all of the current cybersecurity proposals out there arguing that “privacy should be the default, not the exception.” While noting that narrowly targeted cybersecurity rules could be helpful in protecting consumers, he stated that it seems clear that these bills are much more focused on opening up the internet for government to spy and monitor activities online:

The full speech is chock full of good points, such as the importance of trust in creating a functioning internet, and how these bills can ruin that by cutting away at our privacy:

Congress’ effort to develop a comprehensive approach to cyber security must not erode that trust. When Americans go online to consume digital services and goods, they must believe and know with some certainty that their privacy is adequately protected. The content Americans consume must be at least as private as their library records, video rentals, and book purchases in the brick and mortar world. Our law enforcement and Intelligence agencies should not be free to monitor and catalog the speech of Americans just because it’s online.

But the bill passed by the other body, known as CISPA, would erode that trust. As an attempt to protect our networks from real cyber-threats CISPA is an example of what not to do. CISPA repeals important provisions of existing electronic surveillance law that have been on the books for years without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality, and civil liberties safeguards. It creates uncertainty in place of trust, it erodes statutory and constitutional civil rights protections, and it creates a surveillance regime in place of the targeted, nimble, cyber-security program that is needed to truly protect this nation.

Unfortunately, S. 2105, the bill before the Senate shares some of these defects. Currently Internet services and service providers have agreements with their customers that allow them to police and protect their networks and users. Rather than simply allowing these internet companies to share information on users who violate their contracts and pose a security threat, the House and Senate proposals authorize a broad based information sharing regime that can operate with impunity. This would allow the personal data of individual Americans to be shared across a multitude of bureaucratic, military, and law enforcement agencies. This takes place regardless of the privacy agreements individual Americans have with their service providers.

In fact, both the House and Senate bills subordinate all existing privacy rules and constitutional principles to the poorly defined interest of “cyber-security.”

Wyden goes even further later in the speech noting — as many of us have been arguing all along — that these bills are a massive overreaction to the possibility of an issue, which are much more about ways for government contractors to profit from fear:

As they stand, these bills are an overreaction to a legitimate fear. The American people will respond by limiting their online activities. That’s a recipe to stifle speech, innovation, job creation, and social progress.

I believe these bills will encourage the development of a cyber security industry that profits from fear and whose currency is Americans private data. These bills create a Cyber Industrial Complex that has an interest in preserving the problem to which it is the solution.

There’s a lot more in the speech that’s worth hearing, so check it out.

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Comments on “Senator Ron Wyden Slams Cybersecurity Legislation Proposals For Eroding Trust & Privacy”

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Anonymous Coward says:

a shame that someone in his position that has such sense and understanding, particularly about the Internet will be totally ignored. it wont be because what he is saying is wrong but because those that are trying to get CISPA and other similar/worse bills (eg, TPP) into law have either received mega ‘incentives’ to force them through or are so full of themselves that getting what they want, regardless of the consequences, is more important than keeping the constitution intact and keeping peoples rights to privacy, freedom and speech alive

Pro Se (profile) says:

Actually, it is difficult to take issue with the concerns he raises in his remarks. They are well made and articulately presented.

My only negative comment is that his remarks appear to have been made to an empty house, which is quite common. Speeches are regularly made under such circumstances for inclusion in the Congressional Record, but a speech limited to just inclusion in the CR is not an effective substitute for presentation before the Senate at large.

While I recognize that my views will almost certainly never be added to the Senate rules, this is one area where public attention should be brought to bear.

Moreover, I wish similar arguments were raised against other government programs such as the role of the TSA regarding airline security. Target individuals who exhibit well-recognized actions that have proven to be predictors of possible wrongdoers.

I have in the past criticized some of Senator Wyden’s opinion, but this is most certainly not one of them.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:


I was thinking about that this morning… Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a law which said:

“Any person elected or hired in any Legislative or Executive branch of government at any level (Federal, State, County, et al) will be deprived of and banned from government service immediately if it is found that said person proposed, passed, or enforced a law which the Supreme Court later found to unconstitutional.”

(Or something to that effect, certainly the working could be more clear.)

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s sad that he only has (almost) 800 views (so far). It deserves more views. Common sense, as he states, says that anything critical shouldn’t be connected to the Internet.

These cyber security bills will do absolutely nothing to secure the Internet. Separating critical infrastructure from the Internet and securing your infrastructure through well written source code will be less costly, less intrusive, and more effective.

But will Congress listen to him? Of course not. This isn’t about cyber security, it’s about unnecessary government intrusion into our lives.

and these bills are an overreaction to a non-existing problem. It’s sad.

Pro Se (profile) says:


Yes, your suggestion does need a lot of work. For example, if the PPACA is struck down by the Supreme Court in whole or in part, do you really want the President to be “fired” (obviously the constitution would not permit this) if the Supreme Court does not render a decision upholding the entirety of the Act? Of course the clear answer is “no”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ya know, I wish Senator Wyden represented my state instead of folk like Lamar Smith from the house, or others of his ilk. I don’t much agree with most of the stuff I hear coming out of congress lately, just like most of the citizenship of the nation. I’d much rather see a middle of the road Representatives than all the extremists that seem to inhabit Washington these days.

Senator Wyden has been fairly consistent in his views of privacy for the public. I’ll give him kudos and credit for that.

There’s a reason why most of the national population is showing so little trust and support for Congress. When you hear what the latest are, such as SOPA, ACTA, or the TPP, it doesn’t take long to figure out which side the bread is being buttered from. It just seems to go from there into all aspects and topics when considering bill making.

In my mind it will be a wonder if some of the incumbents survive this years election.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hmm, I might add that in the same vein of Senator’s Wydens’ speech about how the net is used, it isn’t just limited to that.

Look at branches like the TSA. A show and tell security operation but one that can’t really function. I can tell you straight up, I won’t be flying where ever I travel. I have no wish to harm anyone. My butt would be in the same plane were I on it.

I do not condone sexual groping. If the government can’t figure out there is a moral issue here, well and good. I have a distinct opinion (which I might add that I live by) about such operations and I have a choice. I will exercise that choice and never fly while other options are available. Yes, I do feel that strongly about government sanctioned sexual groping under any name. It doesn’t change the actions.

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