Tag Archives: Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act

In FBI versus Apple, government strengthened tech’s hand on privacy

Written by Rahul Telang. Published 2-25-2016 by The Conversation.

The ongoing fight between Apple and the FBI over breaking into the iPhone maker’s encryption system to access a person’s data is becoming an increasingly challenging legal issue.

With a deadline looming, Apple filed court papers explaining why it is refusing to assist the FBI in cracking a password on an iPhone used by one of the suspects in the San Bernardino shooting. CEO Tim Cook has declared he will take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

The tech company now wants Congress to step in and define what can be reasonably demanded of a private company, though perhaps it should be careful what it wishes for, considering lawmakers have introduced a bill that compels companies to break into a digital device if the government asks.

But there is an irony to this debate. Government once pushed industry to improve personal data privacy and security – now it’s the tech companies who are trumpeting better security. My own research has highlighted this interplay among businesses, users and regulators when comes to data security and privacy.

For consumers, who in coming years will see ever more of their lives take place in the digital realm, this heightened attention on data privacy is a very good thing.

The heart of the case is the phone of a suspect in the San Bernardino shootings. Reuters

The business case for better privacy grows

Not too long ago, everyone seemed to be bemoaning that companies aren’t doing enough to protect customer security and privacy.

The White House, for example, published a widely cited report saying that the lack of online privacy is essentially a market failure. It highlighted that users simply are in no position to control how their data are collected, analyzed and traded. Thus, a market-based approach to privacy will be ineffective, and regulations were necessary to force firms to to protect the security and privacy of consumer data.

The tide seems to have turned. Repeated stories on data breaches and privacy invasion, particularly from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, appears to have heightened users’ attention to security and privacy. Those two attributes have become important enough that companies are finding it profitable to advertise and promote them.

Apple, in particular, has highlighted the security of its products recently and reportedly is doubling down and plans to make it even harder for anyone to crack an iPhone.

Whether it is through its payment software or operating system, Apple has emphasized security and privacy as an important differentiator in its products. Of course, unlike Google or Facebook, Apple does not make money using customer data explicitly. So it may have more incentives than others to incorporate these features. But it competes directly with Android and naturally plays an important role in shaping market expectation on what a product and service should look like.

These features possibly play an even more critical role outside the U.S. where privacy is under threat not only from online marketers and hackers but also from governments. In countries like China, where Apple sells millions of iPhones, these features potentially are very attractive to end users to keep their data private from prying eyes of authorities.

Consumers are demanding more security, something Apple has taken to heart. Reuters

Regulators hum a different tune

It is clear that Apple is offering strong security to its users, so much so that FBI accuses it of using it as a marketing gimmick.

It seems we have come a full circle in the privacy debate. A few years ago, regulators were lamenting how businesses were invading consumers’ privacy, lacked the proper incentives to do so and how markets needed stronger rules to make it happen. Today, some of the same regulators are complaining that products are too secure and firms need to relax it in some special cases.

While the legality of this case will likely play out over time, we as end users can feel better that in at least in some markets, companies are responding to a growing consumer demand for products that more aggressively protect our privacy. Interestingly, Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, offers security by default and does not require users to “opt-in,” a common option in most other products. Moreover, these features are available to every user, whether they explicitly want it or not, suggesting we may be moving to a world in which privacy is fundamental.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has promised to take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court if he must. Reuters

Data sharing gets complicated

At its core, this debate also points to a larger question over how a public-private partnership should be structured in a cyberworld and how and when a company needs to share details with either the government or possibly with other businesses for the public good.

When Google servers were breached in China in 2010, similar questions arose. United States government agencies wanted access to technical details on the breach so it could investigate the perpetrators more thoroughly to unearth possible espionage attempts by Chinese hackers. The breach appeared to be aimed at learning the identities of Chinese intelligence operatives in the U.S. that were under surveillance.

Information sharing on data breaches and security infiltration is something the government has widely encouraged, last year passing the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 to encourage just that.

Unfortunately, various government agencies themselves have become self-interested parties in this game. In particular, the Snowden disclosures revealed that many government agencies conduct extensive surveillance on citizens, which arguably not only undermine our privacy but compromise our entire information security infrastructure.

These agencies, including the FBI in the current case, may have good intentions, but all of this has finally given profit-maximizing companies the right incentives they need to do what the regulators once wanted. Private businesses now have little incentive to get caught up in the bad press that usually follows disclosures like Snowden’s, so it’s no wonder they want to convince their customers that their data are safe and secure, even from the government.

With cybersecurity becoming a tool for government agencies to wage war with other nation-states, it is no surprise that companies want to share less, not more, even with their own governments.

The battle ahead

This case is obviously very specific. I suspect that, in this narrow case, Apple and law enforcement agencies will find a compromise.

But the Apple brand has likely strengthened. In the long run, its loyal customers will reward it for putting them first.

However, this question is not going away anywhere. With the “Internet of things” touted as the next big revolution, more and more devices will capture our very personal data – including our conversations.

This case could be a precedent-setting event that can reshape how our data are stored and managed in the future. But at least for now, some of the companies appear to be – or least say they want to be – on our side in terms protecting our privacy.

About the Author:
 is Professor of Information Systems and Management, Carnegie Mellon University.

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‘Codifying’ Government Surveillance, Senate Passes CISA

“If President Obama does not veto this bill, he’ll be showing that his administration never truly cared about the open Internet,” rights group says

Written by Nadia Prupis. Published 10-27-2015 by Common Dreams.

The U.S. Senate approved CISA on Tuesday. (Screenshot)

The U.S. Senate approved CISA on Tuesday. (Screenshot)

Update:
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) without any of the proposed amendments that would have strengthened user protections. The bill passed 74-21 (see the roll call here).

Rights groups immediately called for President Barack Obama to veto the bill and vowed to keep pressure up.

“Every senator supporting #CISA today voted against a world with freedom, democracy, and basic human rights,” tweeted digital rights organization Fight for the Future. “If President Obama does not veto this bill, he’ll be showing that his administration never truly cared about the open Internet.”

“This vote will go down as the moment Congress codified the US government’s unconstitutional spying. A sad day for the Internet,” the group added.

In their response to CISA’s passage in the Senate, the Electronic Frontier Foundation marked its disappointment and said: “The bill is fundamentally flawed due to its broad immunity clauses, vague definitions, and aggressive spying authorities.”

With the bill now moving to conference committee, but EFF expressed no confidence that the bill would be improved.

“The passage of CISA reflects the misunderstanding many lawmakers have about technology and security,” EFF continued. “Computer security engineers were against it.  Academics were against it. Technology companies, including some of Silicon Valley’s biggest like Twitter and Salesforce, were against it. Civil society organizations were against it. And constituents sent over 1 million faxes opposing CISA to Senators.”

EFF vowed that the fight against the bill would continue through the conference committee process, where it will urge lawmakers to add pro-privacy provisions. “We will never stop fighting for lawmakers to either understand technology or understand when they need to listen to the people who do,” the group said.

The official Senate roll call to the vote follows:

Alphabetical by Senator Name

Alexander (R-TN), Yea
Ayotte (R-NH), Yea
Baldwin (D-WI), Nay
Barrasso (R-WY), Yea
Bennet (D-CO), Yea
Blumenthal (D-CT), Yea
Blunt (R-MO), Yea
Booker (D-NJ), Nay
Boozman (R-AR), Yea
Boxer (D-CA), Yea
Brown (D-OH), Nay
Burr (R-NC), Yea
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Capito (R-WV), Yea
Cardin (D-MD), Nay
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Casey (D-PA), Yea
Cassidy (R-LA), Yea
Coats (R-IN), Yea
Cochran (R-MS), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Yea
Coons (D-DE), Nay
Corker (R-TN), Yea
Cornyn (R-TX), Yea
Cotton (R-AR), Yea
Crapo (R-ID), Nay
Cruz (R-TX), Not Voting
Daines (R-MT), Nay
Donnelly (D-IN), Yea
Durbin (D-IL), Yea
Enzi (R-WY), Yea
Ernst (R-IA), Yea
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Fischer (R-NE), Yea
Flake (R-AZ), Yea
Franken (D-MN), Nay
Gardner (R-CO), Yea
Gillibrand (D-NY), Yea
Graham (R-SC), Not Voting
Grassley (R-IA), Yea
Hatch (R-UT), Yea
Heinrich (D-NM), Yea
Heitkamp (D-ND), Yea
Heller (R-NV), Nay
Hirono (D-HI), Yea
Hoeven (R-ND), Yea
Inhofe (R-OK), Yea
Isakson (R-GA), Yea
Johnson (R-WI), Yea
Kaine (D-VA), Yea
King (I-ME), Yea
Kirk (R-IL), Yea
Klobuchar (D-MN), Yea
Lankford (R-OK), Yea
Leahy (D-VT), Nay
Lee (R-UT), Nay
Manchin (D-WV), Yea
Markey (D-MA), Nay
McCain (R-AZ), Yea
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Yea
Menendez (D-NJ), Nay
Merkley (D-OR), Nay
Mikulski (D-MD), Yea
Moran (R-KS), Yea
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Murphy (D-CT), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Yea
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Paul (R-KY), Not Voting
Perdue (R-GA), Yea
Peters (D-MI), Yea
Portman (R-OH), Yea
Reed (D-RI), Yea
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Risch (R-ID), Nay
Roberts (R-KS), Yea
Rounds (R-SD), Yea
Rubio (R-FL), Not Voting
Sanders (I-VT), Nay
Sasse (R-NE), Yea
Schatz (D-HI), Yea
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Scott (R-SC), Yea
Sessions (R-AL), Yea
Shaheen (D-NH), Yea
Shelby (R-AL), Yea
Stabenow (D-MI), Yea
Sullivan (R-AK), Nay
Tester (D-MT), Nay
Thune (R-SD), Yea
Tillis (R-NC), Yea
Toomey (R-PA), Yea
Udall (D-NM), Nay
Vitter (R-LA), Not Voting
Warner (D-VA), Yea
Warren (D-MA), Nay
Whitehouse (D-RI), Yea
Wicker (R-MS), Yea
Wyden (D-OR), Nay

Earlier:

As the U.S. Senate gears up for a vote on the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) on Tuesday, privacy advocates are galvanizing an 11th-hour push against the bill they say does nothing more than expand government spying powers.

A slew of digital rights groups including Fight for the Future and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with whistleblower Edward Snowden and outspoken CISA opponent Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), joined forces Monday night for an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit, which has also come out against the bill. The session was the latest action by civil society groups, activists, and tech companies calling on Congress to reject CISA for its anti-privacy provisions.

“CISA isn’t a cybersecurity bill,” Snowden wrote during the Q&A. “It’s not going to stop any attacks. It’s not going to make us any safer. It’s a surveillance bill.”

Supporters of CISA—including Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.)—say the bill would make it easier for tech companies to share data in cases of security breaches and other digital attacks. But critics say there aren’t enough safeguards in place to protect user privacy and the bill only works to serve intelligence agencies in domestic surveillance operations.

“What it allows is for the companies you interact with every day—visibly, like Facebook, or invisibly, like AT&T—to indiscriminately share private records about your interactions and activities with the government,” Snowden wrote on Monday. “CISA allows private companies to immediately share a perfect record of your private activities the instant you click a link, log in, make a purchase, and so on—and the government with reward for doing it by granting them a special form of legal immunity for their cooperation.”

Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer said the Senate’s vote on Tuesday “will go down in history as the moment that lawmakers decided not only what sort of Internet our children and our children’s children will have, but what sort of world they will live in.”

The campaigns, which are being waged under the hashtag #StopCISA, urge senators to oppose the bill and protect civil liberties.

Greer added, “Every Senator who votes for CISA will be voting for a world without freedom of expression, a world without true democracy, a world without basic human rights. And they will be voting for their own removal from office, because the Internet will not forget which side of history they stood on.”

Follow the #StopCISA hashtag Twitter feed for more.

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