The President of the United States is said by some to be the most powerful man in the world -- but should he have control of the spread of information.
A legislation proposed on April 1 is no joke. The proposed bill would grant President Obama the authority to shut down public and private networks -- including the restriction of internet traffic -- as part of a cybersecurity emergency plan.
The bill was introduced by West Virginia Democratic Sen. John Rockefeller and Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican from Maine. The aim of the bill is to unite both public and private network operators to develop regulations for what to do in case of a cyber attack.
For obvious reasons, many are concerned about what such power could mean if the wrong actions were taken. Leslie Harris, president and CEO at the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), said in a NetworkWorld story, “This is pretty sweeping legislation. Seems the President could turn off the Internet completely or tell someone like Verizon to limit or block certain traffic. There is a lot to worry about in this bill.”
While the public sector may be used to more government regulation and involvement, such control will undoubtedly bother corporations. CDT’s Harris added that regulatory rules could force companies to all conform to a similar system, which could hamper security and innovation. For example, if a critical security flaw was found in a mandated system, then the entire network could be susceptible to such a flaw.
Corporations, particularly internet-centric companies, are keeping close watch on how this will pan out.
“We are currently studying this legislation,” said Dan Martin, a spokesman for Google. “Security has been a priority at Google from the beginning of the company – we recognize that secure products are instrumental in maintaining the trust our users place in us.”
The politicians behind the bill do clarify that this is just the first proposal and that there is still room for much revision and evolution.
“This legislation is the beginning of the process - the objective of this cybersecurity bill is to start the debate and chairman Rockefeller welcomes comments from all parties, he is sitting down with stakeholders already and he welcomes input from all those supportive of the legislation and those with concerns,” said Jena Longo, deputy communications director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation.
Check out the bill here (PDF), hosted by NetworkWorld.