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Senate Proposal Could Put Heavy Restrictions on Internet Freedoms
The days of an open, largely unregulated Internet may soon come to an end.

 9:52 pm on Apr 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Man this is getting real ugly real fast.




 10:21 pm on Apr 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Always take with a grain of salt any news report, email from a concerned friend, or viral YouTube video breathlessly claiming that a senate proposal is going to change life as we know it forever. These claims have been popping up with more regularity lately.

The very first sentence is uninformed.

The days of an open, largely unregulated Internet may soon come to an end.

Largely unregulated? Are they kidding? In what universe? Not this one that's for sure. LOL

So what restrictions are they contemplating? The article doesn't discuss any. The article is about a bi-partisan proposal giving government the power to step in and shut down the Internet if our infrastructure was under attack. This is probably in response to the recent findings that spies have broken into the United States Power Grid and left behind software that could be used to disrupt it, as reported in the Wall Street Journal [online.wsj.com].

The espionage appeared pervasive across the U.S. and doesn't target a particular company or region, said a former Department of Homeland Security official. "There are intrusions, and they are growing," the former official said, referring to electrical systems. "There were a lot last year."

Many of the intrusions were detected not by the companies in charge of the infrastructure but by U.S. intelligence agencies, officials said. Intelligence officials worry about cyber attackers taking control of electrical facilities, a nuclear power plant or financial networks via the Internet.

Authorities investigating the intrusions have found software tools left behind that could be used to destroy infrastructure components, the senior intelligence official said. He added, "If we go to war with them, they will try to turn them on."

The title of that article puts a cynical spin on a bi-partisan effort to keep our country safe.


 12:02 am on Apr 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

The concept of safe-guarding the internet is not, in itself, a bad idea. However, having the authority to shutdown/examine the internet held by the president or his cyber advisor (a newly created job) does raise many questions. Also included is government access to banking transactions and that smacks of invasion of privacy under color of "war against terror", in effect a back door to spy on private business and individuals. This bill, if passed, will be more invasive than the Patriot Act and expose all internet activity to the federal government.


 12:20 am on Apr 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

tangor, I'd like for you to cite from the article or from the actual proposals what exactly smacks of invasion of privacy.


The article says, "The government also would have access to digital data from a vast array of industries including banking, telecommunications and energy."

But it doesn't cite specifics. The EFF has a good summary [eff.org] of the act and the parts they find objectionable:

And here's the part about banks:
Essentially, the Act would federalize critical infrastructure security. Since many of our critical infrastructure systems (banks, telecommunications, energy) are in the hands of the private sector, the bill would create a major shift of power away from users and companies to the federal government... the bill contains a particularly dangerous provision that could cripple privacy and security in one fell swoop:

The Secretary of Commerceó shall have access to all relevant data concerning (critical infrastructure) networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access...


 1:23 am on Apr 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

The article is reporting on a bill in progress and is a tad lightweight in facts. The language of the bill and current debate regarding same (not the article) is my source, upon which the article reports. As you have located the EFF report which contains the same concerns as I expressed there's no need to flog the horse.


 2:48 am on Apr 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think it's worth flogging when the blogosphere, month after month, keeps exaggerating senate proposals as the next end of the world. Seriously, how many times does chicken little have to squawk before we realize the sky isn't falling?

It's important to have a discussion about these issues and the EFF does a good job of summarizing the important points. What I take issues with are the exagerrations that come along, and the title of this article plus some of the leaps it takes re privacy are a good point. Take a look at the title of the article:

Senate Proposal Could Put Heavy Restrictions on Internet Freedoms

That's exactly the kind of sensationalizing I'm reacting against. Last month the blogosphere was enraged, literally enraged, because a senate proposal was going to put so many restrictions on agriculture you wouldn't be able to eat from your own garden. SERIOUSLY, that's what people were hauling out their pitchforks over. Month after month people haul out their pitchforks and are manipulated into getting upset over exagerrated claims. Let's stop a moment and reflect on what is going on here.

Senate proposals are red meat to sensationalist news organizations and bloggers. Don't people ever tire of being manipulated? ;)

Fortune Hunter

 3:01 am on Apr 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

The bill would allow the government to create a detailed set of standards for cybersecurity, as well as take over the process of certifying IT technicians.

I can't believe these guys! They want to control everything! I can't think of one thing the government does well and now they want to take over deciding who is "certified" and who is not! Seriously do we want those idiots in Congress deciding what skills an IT technician should have? Does anyone in the world think that the stupid CAN-SPAM bill passed back in 2003 is a good piece of legislation? Nope, and now we want these guys deciding who is certified and who is not. No thanks!

Nonetheless, the proposal to give the U.S. government the authority to regulate the Internet is sounding alarms among critics who say it's another case of big government getting bigger and more intrusive.

Definitely! These guys need to back off, they don't need to control everything. They are simply out of control. Look at the mess they have made of almost everything they touch and we want to let them start regulating the one part of the economy that might still be working?!?!

the president would have the authority to shut down Internet traffic to protect national security.

Gee, I wonder what will be considered necessary to protect "national security" maybe any type of political dissent that disagrees with the President or thinks he is being a dictator? A lot of political organization now takes place online. If suddenly that type of activity was considered dangerous to "national security" they could simply shut it down and stop people from using a very powerful tool to get around oppressive government.

Government needs to leave us alone and quit grabbing more power and freedom from us plain and simple.


 3:03 am on Apr 22, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yet, at the same time, even in the middle of the most outrageous sensationalism, there are kernels of truth. I also have seen how the "man from the guberment I'm here to help you" always extend their powers through the least little mousehole. I personally think the government already has enough info about private individuals that giving them more access just goes against the grain. :)

I do agree that some reporting is over the top and designed to hit buttons rather than report facts...but the "journalists" whether news media or bloggers, have consistently gone that route for the last fifty years. "Believe half of what you read and nothing of what you hear."

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