Liability concerns chill industry participation

No sooner did the new homeland security legislation cast aside — at least for now — concerns that sensitive information filtering through the Information Sharing and Analysis Centers could become public via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), than industry began fretting over a new concern: potential liability issues tied to interaction with the ISACs.

For example, what happens if a company, public utility or state government reports a potential vulnerability that is not acted on? If consequences ensue, who is at fault? Could the ISAC participant be held

liable, after making a good-faith effort to sound an industry alarm?

Liability questions such as these have waxed, as the once-prominent dialogue surrounding FOIA and data disclosure at the ISACs has waned.

"The Department of Homeland Security legislation gave us some relief from the FOIA problem, but not any kind of relief from the liability problem," said William Marlow, a Science Applications International Corp. vice president who led the design team that established the financial services ISAC in 1999. "We've got a double-edged sword, and we've now dulled one edge. We've got to fix the other."

Indeed, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 signed last November was mum on liability questions, though the new law did issue a blanket FOIA waiver to entities submitting information to the ISACs.

But even this FOIA relief could prove only temporary. Congressional members such as Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) have made it known that they are unhappy with the Bush administration's decision to "gut" FOIA and "ram through" FOIA exemptions the senators consider to be too broad, according to a statement Leahy issued in January.

Whether Leahy, Lieberman or any other lawmakers will move to undo the FOIA exemptions remains a concern in industry, despite the fact that Congress does not favor unraveling legislation that President Bush has already signed, sources said.

"When you have that kind of thing going on in the background, it gets sensitive every time you ask a [chief information officer] or [chief financial officer] to step out there and potentially take a risk," said Guy Copeland, a Computer Sciences Corp. vice president who sits on the board of directors for the information technology industry's ISAC.

While data disclosure risks may prove uncharted territory for company executives contemplating an ISAC alliance, liability risks are not. "There are always questions raised, and it gets back to whether we have undertaken all the steps we could," said Louis Leffler, manager of the electrical sector's ISAC.

Hence, liability questions are bound to arise, regardless of whether ISAC participation amounts to a window into a company's operations. "It is something people obviously have to consider from two or three aspects," Leffler said. "For instance, you've got to do risk analyses. But at the end of the day, someone might ask, 'Do you have 24-foot-high barbed wire fences around

facilities?' And though someone might ask that, it still might not have been the appropriate action to take."

Most ISAC members and potential members are in no way looking to shirk such accountability exercises. Yet still they are eager for statutes that would provide the comfort of a formal shield from liability-related litigation, many said.

In fact, the absence of such laws may prove an easy out for some companies contemplating joining an ISAC. "With corporate lawyers, the goal is often to keep something from happening," Copeland said. Therefore, liability jitters are one more reason ISAC officials have to overcome to convince prospective new members to join the centers and make the necessary investments.

However, the debate around ISACs and liability may be far from the level of maturity necessary to make possible any kind of legislative shield, noted industry watcher Lee Zeichner, president of LegalNetworks Inc. Is the government, ISAC or participating member "required to act once they are aware of something? These are thorny issues, but most have not been completely thought through," he said.

NEXT STORY: Matthews named Transportation CIO

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.