Security and privacy must go hand-in-hand

By securing its computer systems, the federal government is protecting citizens' privacy. But in doing so, the government must respect civil liberties, public- and private-sector officials said Tuesday at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information.

The hearing came less than a month after the Clinton administration released its National Plan for Information Systems Protection, the first version of a plan to protect U.S. computer systems.

Sections of the plan have raised privacy and civil liberties concerns from Congress and public interest groups — especially the Federal Intrusion Detection Network (FIDNet), a program intended to coordinate intrusion detection capabilities across civilian agencies. But that only means that the government must revise the plan, not scrap it, officials said.

"The reality is that doing nothing to enhance our cybersecurity in fact erodes the privacy and civil liberties of Americans by making private information accessible to any hacker with a computer and a modem," said subcommittee chairman John Kyl (R-Ariz.).

Privacy issues must be an integral part of initiatives, not as an afterthought, said Mark Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Because the private sector owns the majority of the nation's infrastructure, the number and types of people that will need to be involved in initiative development has changed dramatically, said Frank Cilluffo, director of the task force of Information Warfare &Information Assurance at the Center for Strategic &International Studies.

"This table is much bigger than most tradition national security tables have been," Cilluffo said. "The dialog is critical."

This was the first of many hearings to be held on the matter by this and other committees, Kyl said. The Judiciary subcommittee will likely be looking at the legal authorities for FIDNet under current law and checking into ways to update those laws to better fit the Information Age, he said.

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, also expressed his concerns about the plan, including the role of the Defense Department in the new national security arena and the confusion of tracking security funding requests across many agencies in the fiscal 2001 budget.


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