Our world runs on computers and the Internet. We use them for everything, from communicating with long-lost classmates to managing our bank accounts to buying anything from cars to diapers. The effort to keep these systems secure is known as cybersecurity. Unfortunately, all too often, simple, effective cybersecurity steps are not taken, like changing passwords routinely or updating and patching holes in software. Even when they are, sophisticated hackers can sometimes get around these defenses. The government is using this threat to try to expand its power and permit companies to funnel our sensitive, personal online information to it.
Some in the government want to give the National Security Agency, a division of the Defense Department, and the largest and most powerful spy agency in the world, the power to collect Internet use records. Under such a scheme, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook and every other company that operates on the Internet could share our private information with the military for cybersecurity purposes. Once the government has its hands on the information, there might not be meaningful limits to how it could be used, how long the government could keep the information, or with whom it could share the information. All existing privacy protections would be swept aside in the name of cybersecurity, opening up medical records, private emails, financial information – anything – to prying military eyes. In the name of cybersecurity, the NSA would be able to compile massive quantities of private data, even about people with nothing to do with any wrongdoing. All without a warrant, proper oversight or reasonable limits.
The ACLU is pushing back against proposals that threaten to do an end run on our hard-won privacy protections. Cybersecurity is important, but it cannot justify the military barging into the civilian realm and trampling on our rights.