Cybersecurity

Kaine: Congress is nearsighted on privacy

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said legislation aimed at making Apple and other companies provide access to their technology is not a solution to the larger cybersecurity problem.

When it comes to sharing information in the fight against cyberattacks, Congress will always come down on the side of security over privacy, said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), because lawmakers have "fundamentally surrendered" the public's expectations of privacy in the legislative approach to cybersecurity.

In a speech at a May 24 Cybersecurity After Information Sharing conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Kaine said the recent fight between Apple and the FBI over backdoor access to a terrorist's cell phone is part of a larger privacy versus security issue that must be addressed more comprehensively.

Legislation aimed at making Apple and other companies provide access to their technology is not a solution to the larger cybersecurity problem, and it is impossible for Congress to strike a balance between privacy and security in legislation that seeks to open up devices to law enforcement, said Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"We will overvalue security" in drawing up legislation because of concerns about growing cyberattacks, he said.

Kaine was referring to encryption legislation that is designed to guarantee that federal law enforcement agencies have access to encrypted communications via a warrant. A draft of the bill was introduced in April by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

"Privacy is a complex question," Kaine said. "Citizens surrender privacy every day in the commercial sphere. How does that translate into the government sphere?" In his opinion, the answer is hardly clear-cut.

He said a better alternative is a bill introduced in February by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. It calls for the creation of a commission of experts in technology, cryptography, law enforcement, intelligence, privacy, global commerce and national security to explore ways to give law enforcement access to electronic communication without sacrificing privacy.

"I think it's a good idea," Kaine said. "Congress would benefit from a commission with people who understand" privacy and security.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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