How Far Will the Government Go?

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-06-03 Print this article Print

Maybe it's an overabundance of irrational concern, but am I the only person who thinks this bill is using security as a tool to invade the privacy of the corporate world and its employees?  It's a real possibility.

There's no debating that more attention needs to be paid to keeping the United States secure from cyber-threats, but just how far the government will go to ensure civil liberties are maintained is very much in doubt.  And no matter how many arguments are made in defense of civil liberties on the part of politicians, it's difficult to believe it when bills like the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 are even proposed.

For his part, President Obama did say in a speech last week that the country's "pursuit of cyber-security will not include ... monitoring private sector networks or Internet traffic."  He went on to say that his administration will "preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans."

That's certainly nice to hear.  But whenever cyber-security policies are made a part of the U.S. government's initiatives, it's privacy that takes a blow.  That doesn't mean it will continue to happen going forward, but if we are to use the past as our guide for the future, it's difficult to see how the government's new stance can really ensure enterprise privacy.

And perhaps that's the biggest problem with President Obama's plan and plans set forth by members of Congress.  They realize that privacy is a major concern so they address it in statements before they enact policies.  But as the enterprise starts being impacted by those policies, it quickly becomes clear that the government has the power to change its own rules whenever it's deemed necessary.

Say what you will about cyber-security and its importance to the future of the United States.  But when it comes to limited enterprise privacy, not even protection against foreign hackers is as important to the fabric of this country as privacy.

"We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs-from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records-the list goes on," Sen. Rockefeller said in a statement earlier this year. "It's an understatement to say that cyber-security is one of the most important issues we face; the increasingly connected nature of our lives only amplifies our vulnerability to cyber-attacks and we must act now."

At all costs?  Let's hope not.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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