STOCK MARKET BSE NSE

Cybersecurity Bills Would Add Secrecy to Public Records Laws

Published: 01st December 2015 11:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st December 2015 11:39 AM   |  A+A-

CybersecuritySecrecy_AP

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., right, confers with committee Vice Chair. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. on Capitol Hill in Washington. |AP

By AP

WASHINGTON: A proposed law meant to encourage companies to share information about cyberthreats with the U.S. government includes measures that could significantly limit what details, if any, the public can review about the program through federal and state public records laws.

The legislation — already passed in both houses of Congress but not yet finalized — would keep secret any information a company hands over to the Obama administration under a new cybersecurity agreement, including specifics the firms decide themselves shouldn't be disclosed. It's not clear whether that secrecy would extend to learning whether particular companies are even participating.

The cyberagreement passed with bipartisan support, despite privacy concerns over Senate language from some lawmakers and technology companies, including Apple Inc. and Dropbox Inc. It's the culmination of a roughly six-year effort made possible by recent additions of antitrust and consumer-liability protections for the companies' participation.

Transparency advocates said the new law would provide excessive cover to tech companies through newrestrictions to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, which also supersedes state and tribal open-records laws. That could shield all sorts of information about what the government is — or isn't — doing to protect Americans who are increasingly victimized by cybercriminals.

"There should be an element of public debate," said Rick Blum, the director of the Washington-based Sunshine in Government Initiative. "Oftentimes, public disclosure and accountability motivates people to be doing more and to be making the right choices."

Under the federal records law, requesters can obtain government information unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or certain confidential decision-making. Critical-infrastructure information is also excluded, but the new law explicitly allows additional exemptions for "cyberthreat indicators" and "defensive measures" shared by companies. Those terms aren't well defined, so there is more leeway to interpret what could be kept secret.

Federal agencies are encouraged to apply discretion in balancing some protections against what can be revealed, but no such discretion would be allowed under the proposed bills. Requesters may have to file a lawsuit in federal court to resolve disputes.

Congress has yet to work out differences between the House and Senate bills before any legislation would ultimately go to President Barack Obama, who early in his administration pledged greater transparency. The White House supports the new exemptions.

The Senate bill passed last month was co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the panel.



Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

IPL_2020
flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp