News / USA

    Proposed US Commission Would Explore Security, Privacy in Digital Age

    FILE - An iPhone in Washington, Feb. 17, 2016.
    FILE - An iPhone in Washington, Feb. 17, 2016.

    Related Articles

    Tech Giants Weigh In on Apple-FBI Dispute

    While many tech executives have voiced full support for Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft founder Bill Gates took a decidedly different view of the issue Tuesday

    FBI-Apple Standoff Was Years in the Making

    Judge's ruling calling on Apple to help FBI gain access to locked iPhone looks like near-perfect case to establish limits, if any, of encryption

    Encryption Debate Comes Out of the Shadows

    FBI director wants special access to your encrypted data; where is the line between privacy and security?

    Obama Cybersecurity Efforts Stir Privacy Debate

    Critics, proponents clash over benefits of White House initiative to increase information sharing between government, private sector

    Obama Administration Expands Cyber Defense Strategies

    What's gained - and what's lost - when the Web becomes weaponized?

    Leaders of two key U.S. Congressional committees involved in national security joined together Wednesday to propose the creation of a national commission to explore the sometimes conflicting issues of privacy and security in the digital era.

    Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) chairs the House Homeland Security Committee and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) is a leading member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. Together, they’re calling for the creation of the bi-partisan “McCaul-Warner Digital Security Commission” that would “bring together experts who understand the complexity and the stakes to develop viable recommendations on how to balance competing digital security priorities.”

    “This is a 9/11 style commission to address the biggest challenge to federal law enforcement I’ve ever seen in my lifetime,” said Rep. McCaul during a discussion at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. “If you can’t see what the terrorists are saying, you have a very urgent security issue.”

    The proposal was months in the making, but comes just as digital privacy and national security have moved front and center in the legal standoff between Apple Computer and the FBI.

    Apple and the FBI have been at loggerheads since a U.S. district judge issued an order forcing Apple to help the FBI break into a locked iPhone allegedly used by one of the two shooters in last December’s San Bernardino terror attacks. Apple CEO Tim Cook has so far refused to comply with the order.

    Encryption

    Since 2014 the FBI has repeatedly expressed concern about the spread of encryption on digital devices, with FBI Director James Comey warning that “encryption threatens to lead all of us to a very dark place.” 

    “This isn’t a commission on encryption,” said Sen. Warner. “Encryption is here to stay, and it protects America’s personal and financial information and intellectual capital. Digital security is the purpose [of the commission]; this is not a battle between privacy and security.”

    Cornell Tech Associate Professor at Cornell University Tom Ristenpart agrees.

    “Privacy versus security? That’s a pretty broad brush to apply. It’s a complicated situation. These technologies are both for privacy and security, so one person’s security measure might be another’s investigative hurdle," he said. "Saying this is some kind of choice that Americans need to make between their information privacy and their security in terms of safety is too loaded of a framing.”

    Ristenpart acknowledged that some terrorists and other criminals are using various encrypted apps and devices to communicate. But, he says, the encryption genie is already out of the bottle, for bad actors as well as good.

    “Preventing Apple from securing their phones for average users isn’t going to stop the terrorists from using encryption, it’s just going to degrade average user’s security,” he told VOA.

    Cornell’s Ristenpart says the new commission should consider not just the limits of technology, but of the law as well.

    “What I’d love to see come out of this commission is a recommendation on the procedural issues – when it’s valid to get a warrant to get access to data,” he said. “There should be some judges who are approving these warrants but there should be privacy advocates, and we’ve seen some of that evolving out of the Snowden revelations.”

    Congressional responsibility

    Sen. Warner and Rep. McCaul aren’t just members of differing political parties; their professional experiences outside Congress mirrors in some ways the competing interests at stake.

    Before being elected, Rep. McCaul was a federal prosecutor and Chief of Counterterrorism and National Security for Texas's branch of the U.S. Attorney's office. For his part, Sen. Mark Warner was an early telecommunications developer and investor and has deep connections within the tech community and Silicon Valley.

    “We’re in unique positions to bring stake-holders together to find a solution to a Paris-style attack where terrorists were using end-to-end encryption, said Chairman McCaul. “We want to act in Congress to prevent that from happening in the U.S.”

    “Congress has a responsibility to act on this,” he added.

    The McCaul-Warner bills are expected to be officially introduced in both chambers of Congress next week. 


    Doug Bernard

    dbjohnson+voanews.com

    Doug Bernard covers cyber-issues for VOA, focusing on Internet privacy, security and censorship circumvention. Previously he edited VOA’s “Digital Frontiers” blog, produced the “Daily Download” webcast and hosted “Talk to America”, for which he won the International Presenter of the Year award from the Association for International Broadcasting. He began his career at Michigan Public Radio, and has contributed to "The New York Times," the "Christian Science Monitor," SPIN and NPR, among others. You can follow him @dfrontiers.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora