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Government Surveillance

Cybersecurity: CDT Cautions Against Government Surveillance of Private Networks

For immediate release:
November 17, 2009

Washington – CDT today told the Senate Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee that cybersecurity efforts must preserve privacy and civil liberties. Private network operators, not the government, should secure private sector systems, while the government should secure its own networks, CDT said.

“The characteristics that have made the Internet successful – openness, innovation, and user control – would be at risk if heavy-handed cybersecurity policies were applied to all online ‘critical infrastructures,’" said CDT Senior Counsel Gregory Nojeim during his testimony. 

"When President Obama unveiled the White House cyberspace review in May, he emphasized that the pursuit of cybersecurity must not include governmental monitoring of private sector networks or Internet traffic," Nojeim said.  "We’re calling on Congress to maintain that bright line – the government should not be monitoring privately owned and operated communications networks in the name of cybersecurity."

The Department of Homeland Security uses the "Einstein" system to protect government computers from attack, but secrecy shrouds the program.  CDT believes independent audits should be required of the system to ensure that it does not intercept private-to-private communications and that other privacy protections are observed. 

Privacy and security should not be viewed as a zero sum game.  Measures intended to increase the security of communications should be designed to enhance privacy.  CDT looks forward to working with the Subcommittee to identify and promote "win-win" measures.

The full testimony can be found online here.