The Internet “Kill Switch” – Tin Foil Hat Time?
Internet networking sites have been abuzz with rumors that legislation is under consideration that would give the President of the United States an Internet “Kill Switch.” That is, the right to shut down the Internet at any time, or, if you are more reasonable, during times of war or impending/occurring cyberattack.
Apparently, an unnamed Senate committee has approved the legislation as of Thursday. Proponents, such as Senator Joe Lieberman, say the legislation actually restricts presidential powers extended to him under the Communications Act of 1934. (Read about the legislation on Techworld)
The so-called Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act has people from all sides of the political spectrum concerned.
The same Techworld article referenced above has this to say:
The bill, introduced earlier this month, would establish a White House Office for Cyberspace Policy and a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications, which would work with private US companies to create cybersecurity requirements for the electrical grid, telecommunications networks and other critical infrastructure.
The bill also would allow the US president to take emergency actions to protect critical parts of the Internet, including ordering owners of critical infrastructure to implement emergency response plans, during a cyber-emergency. The president would need congressional approval to extend a national cyber-emergency beyond 120 days under an amendment to the legislation approved by the committee.
The legislation would give the US Department of Homeland Security authority that it does not now have to respond to cyber-attacks, Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, said earlier this month.
So, another layer of government agencies and control. Neat. And, by neat, I mean “here comes Big Brother.”
Is it any wonder that civil rights and privacy groups sent a coordinated later stating their concerns? The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a leading protector of online civil rights, was one of the groups signing the letter. I went to their site to find out what they had to say about the legislation and found … nothing. Strange. But then, I had to search long and hard when I wanted to read their views on Net Neutrality as well. Perhaps it’s there, just cleverly concealed/buried.
The Techworld article summarizes my fears, perhaps accidentally. The bill gives the government the right to mandate policy to critical infrastructure, including telecommunications networks. Then, it gives the President the right to protect that critical infrastructure. Excuse me, but aren’t Internet Service Providers (ISPs) telecommunications networks? Yeah. Thought so. So, basically, this bill gives the President the legal authority to control the entire Internet in time of a “cyber-emergency.”
As if that weren’t scary enough, one has to see this legislation in context. I’ve already written about the government involving itself in journalism and new media, and we all know how completely peaceful conservative groups, such as the Tea Party movement, are being labeled as “hate groups.” When the government gets to decide what is valid journalism, what peaceful, free speech is safe and what is dangerous, and then announces widespread plans to take over the Internet in the name of Net Neutrality or cyber-security, I seen a very, very dangerous trend emerging.
How many feel-good bits of legislation are going to be passed in the name of free speech, when in fact they stifle it? How many acts are going to be passed for our own protection, when the people we need protection from the most are our own government officials?
Think I’m being paranoid?
In the short span of time my blog has been up and running, I’ve already been visited by the Department of Homeland Security and a private, DC-based security firm, Cyveillance.
How do I know Cyveillance is doing government work? I don’t. I just suspect they are as they are running the same, outdated version of Internet Explorer as DHS (IE 6.0) and the same operating system. Running several years behind the times, and in the exact same way, has government written all over it.
And, those are just the visits I know about. It’s extremely easy to not show up on client-side web stat counters (just turn off the automatic loading of images.)
Perhaps it’s just that two government employees find my blog interesting and decided to surf it at work. I find that doubtful. After all, there’s no porn. But when Cyveillance specifically targets a post, by URL, through a Google search, and that post is on the “problems with Civil Rights groups,” I start to wonder.
Make no mistake, the government is interfering where it has no right. Is this legislation part of that interference, or is it really in our “best interests” to give power over the entire Internet to one man? Let’s be clear on this: it was probably harder for Pakistan to shut off access to Facebook during “Everyone Draw Mohammed Day” than it will be for Obama to stifle us all in one fell swoop.
Liberty? Freedom of Speech? Wherefore art though?