Kill switch. It’s a nice way of saying stop everything dead in its tracks instantly without warning, procedure, or steps beyond the immediate halt. It sounds all powerful and definite. Hitting a kill switch should grind the object or order in question to a complete and utter end. That is exactly what Joe Lieberman and a few other congressional representatives hope to have in place in the near future; a switch that would give the government, specifically the President, the power to kill the internet. Not only that, but the proposed bill would also create an Office of Cyberspace Policy in the Executive Branch to advise the President along with, “creation of a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to elevate and strengthen the Department’s cyber security capabilities and authorities”.
Now this proposed bill does have certain provision and language that directly states that now dictatorial authority is granted to the President or any member of government in terms of managing or monitoring private company’s affairs or information on a given network. What is concerning, however, is the ability to set fines for failure to met certain regulations or request made by one or more of these new groups. The hope seems to be that while these groups won’t take over any private networks, they will create risk management guidelines and plans for companies and network providers to help maintain what the government deems a proper level of security. By setting up an emergency response team to handle major threats or breaches, they feel they can better protect the country from terrorist attempts to shut down or damage data systems and other vital network functions.
While this all is very good and well thought out, the major concern here is not what the bill could help prevent, but what it may later enable. Though the language is clear as regards certain areas and abilities for government officials, the language is unspecific in terms of how harsh, often, or painful fines may be and what sanctions for companies that do not comply will be put into effect. Can we assume that a “strong suggestion” is just as effective as a command when it come to money talk in a capitalist system? Though the dictates won’t be direct, the indirect persuasions could potential shift the power balance decidedly to one player. What we would have, essentially, is misdirection. The government would be in a position to always say that none of their actions have been directly intended to provide any outcome other than upholding regulations for safety and the companies in question could say that any actions they have taken we purely for security and compliance. This would not only divide the public’s attention but remove it from the focus on the abuses that potentially could become all too common. While one might say that the intentions are in the right place and that the current administration would never abuse the new power, it can safely be said that the road to hell has been paved by sweeter sentiments before.
In short, the good idea is definitely there in this case. Lieberman may not be a guy to trust but for once he brought to the table an idea that can be perfected with time. This bill needs some legislative lovin’ in a bad way and a champion to step forward to help ensure it is reformed properly. More complexity and more safeguards must be woven into the framework to prevent future government officials from abusing what initially seems like a protective and positive law. It has happened before and will happen again that older laws get abused and used against the sentiment of their original intent. Good intentions are great. True reform is better still.