For cybersecurity, let bipartisanship succeed

When Congress returns from recess, expectations of what it can accomplish this year will remain low. The 112th Congress has not been very productive thus far, and significant achievements will only grow more difficult as the next election nears. But, believe it or not, there are a few remaining glimmers of bipartisan hope in 2012. One of which is passing cybersecurity legislation.

Cyber efforts haven’t garnered much press so far for two simple reasons. First, unlike the budget and the Keystone XL pipeline, cyber proposals only recently became mired in entrenched political partisanship. And second, it’s an issue that isn’t well understood.


Future innovation needs public-private balance

From the days of Edison and the Wright brothers to our own generation’s Burt Rutan and Steve Jobs, scientific innovation and technological advancement have always provided the basis for our country’s economic engine. These advancements have forever changed the way we live and the way we do business. They have been the sources of job creation, wealth and America’s place as a world leader.
Past generations understood that significant technological breakthroughs come at a price. Each dollar spent on research and development was an investment with risks and rewards, and often the list of successes paled in comparison to the failures that piled up along the way. Ours is a nation that has always believed the rewards outweighed the risks; that there is true value in investing in science and technology research. We cheered the innovative. We championed the entrepreneurial. We rooted for those who dared dream making possible the impossible. And we’ve reaped the economic and societal benefits many times over. 


The ultimate crash avoidance system

In 2010, drunk driving represented 31 percent of all highway deaths, equating to 10,228 lives lost. Another 350,000 people were injured in drunk-driving crashes. The cost of this epidemic to our country was $132 billion. However, to me, these aren’t just numbers. My 15-year-old daughter, Alisa, was killed in a drunk driving crash. And while drunk-driving deaths have been reduced by more than half in the 32 years since Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was founded, we still have much work to do.
A cutting edge research project called DADSS (Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety) is currently underway and could one day eliminate drunk driving in our country. The project seeks to develop an in-vehicle technology to seamlessly and passively detect a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The program to develop this lifesaving technology is a joint effort between the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety, comprised of the world’s leading auto manufacturers, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Who's paying for the attacks on MADD?

Who else but Richard Berman would argue we need to better protect drunk drivers? Sarah Longwell, the “managing director” of the American Beverage Institute (ABI) is credited with Today's MADD drives dangerous new policies, but Longwell’s real job is vice president at Berman’s public relations firm, Berman & Company, and ABI is just one of Berman’s many industry front groups. 

With a title like managing director of the American Beverage Institute, you might think Longwell is an expert on sometimes conflicting goals of the hospitality industry, which both wants to ring up sales and, at the same time, ensure patrons drink responsibly. She’s not. Rather, she’s a paid flack trying to undermine the influence of Mothers Against Drunk Driving – a nonprofit that enjoys high public confidence – at the behest of corporate interests that don’t want their own fingerprints on such a dirty game.

According to ABI’s website, the group is “a restaurant trade association dedicated to protecting the on-premise dining experience – which often includes the responsible consumption of adult beverages.” As a representative for ABI, Longwell decries the inhumanity that, one day, alcohol detection technology may be installed in all vehicles. Sure, this technology would crack down on drunk drivers, but Longwell claims this also would inhibit the personal freedom of anyone who opts to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking responsibly. Never mind that even the facts she cites in her post do not support her claims. But the truth doesn’t interest Longwell.


Mobile broadband legislation black hole

One of the more lively debates that has been dominating Washington centers around something none of us can even see: spectrum — the invisible infrastructure that powers everything from radios and broadcast television, to Wi-Fi, cellular phones, and even garage door openers.

Spectrum is today’s hot topic due to the unprecedented growth of mobile broadband, which is taxing the networks of America’s wireless providers. Simply put, if spectrum is the oxygen of the wireless world, providers are quickly running out of air, and unless more spectrum can soon be purchased by the carriers who need it the most, our country risks missing out on the full economic and social benefits mobile broadband promises to bring.

The pressing need to free up more spectrum is not lost on the Federal Communications Commission or Congress. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has warned of a “looming spectrum crisis,” and in February, with a wise compromise on the payroll-tax extension bill, lawmakers set an important process in motion. Congress not only freed up more spectrum, but recognized the importance of ensuring a humble approach to the way the next round of spectrum auctions — which could mean billions to America’s economy — is crafted.


Crowdfunding: Don't panic, don't pout

Imagine you have a great idea for a small business. You’ve identified an untapped market, drawn up a detailed business plan and saved about 50 percent of the capital to get the idea off the ground. But your bank isn’t lending to start ups right now- you’re too much of a risk. And there is no rich aunt to leave you an inheritance.

Where can you get the money to make your dreams come true? The answer is crowdfunding. The idea behind crowdfunding is simple: an entrepreneur obtains money through the Internet from many micro level investors, instead of using traditional banks for a line of credit and beyond what the entrepreneur could have obtained from “friends and family” investors. Until now, crowdfunding has been popular with non-profit projects but illegal for capital investors looking for a financial return on their investment.

And with so much turmoil in the nation's banking institutions, the entrepreneurial spirit in this country is at risk of being choked to death. Banks have become more and more afraid of taking risks - even small ones. Capital for start-up ventures has become harder and harder to come by. By opening up the Internet to investors looking for new businesses to invest in, we can stoke the creativity that is waiting to be unleashed in this country, especially for entrepreneurs who have given up on employment in the formal sector of the economy.


Investing in cyber – and economic – security: Let’s get to it

With respect to the newly proposed SECURE IT Act, it's awesome we have the opportunity to continue to drive the dialogue on how we advance our protection in cyberspace for America in a global context. Over the past few weeks, the Senate has been preparing to take up cybersecurity legislation aimed at the protection of our nation’s critical infrastructure, including energy grids, financial markets and other institutions central to the lives and livelihoods of Americans. This is important work and an opportunity to address the growing and maturing cyber threats we face as a country.  Though there are differences of opinion on how we arrive, we all agree we need to get there.
Several elements of the previously-proposed Senate bill as well as the SECURE IT Act advance the goals of the sharing of threat information and the best practices between government and private industry, including: 1) conducting sector risk assessments to identify gaps, 2) updating the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), 3) improving cyber workforce development, 4) addressing criminal penalties, and 5) investing in cyber R&D.


LightSquared will make for a better connection

As a progressive state legislator, it’s not every day that I find myself championing a conservative infrastructure investment model like the LightSquared project. However, my hometown was the last in the nation to use the crank phone (no...not the rotary dial). I may still get carded at the store, but I remember using the system. More than most, I recognize the economic consequences of being on the wrong side of the digital tracks.

While the federal government has been wasting trillions of dollars building nations abroad, our own infrastructure here at home has taken a hit, not the least of which is our broadband investment. It’s great that urban parts of the country have broadband Internet and reliable cell phone service; the rest of us do not and that hurts the entire American economy. Regardless of whether the investment is public or private, it needs to be made. LightSquared is investing billions in private money to deploy the most robust, reliable 4G mobile broadband system in the country.

The question is where have the Conservatives been up until now?


Google privacy policy remains a cause for concern

The line between providing a dynamic service and violating customers’ privacy can be a thin one in the 21st century. As technology giants strive for one-touch solutions across multiple platforms to create a more convenient experience for their customers, they must avoid misusing these customers’ personal information. The case-in-point for this struggle appears to be Google’s new privacy policy, which three dozen state attorneys general – myself included – and consumer protection officials asked the company to reconsider last week.

Google justifies its new privacy policy—which was implemented today—by arguing it needs to consolidate roughly 60 product-specific privacy policies into one comprehensive policy in order to improve the user experience and make its privacy policies and practices more understandable. Google claims that the unified privacy policy will not change or expand the information it collects about its users. Rather, Google argues that it will merely combine data collected by one Google service with information about that same user that was collected by other Google services—effectively treating the customer as a single user across all services.


Cyber Security Act of 2012 requires a liability protection bug fix

The Lieberman-Collins-Rockefeller-Feinstein Cyber Security Act of 2012 seeks to protect high-risk critical infrastructure of the United States from cyber attack, and to create a place for private sector entities to share cyber information without fear of reprisal—while receiving the “secret sauce” only the government can provide: intelligence and law enforcement information. These dual goals are important, and it is past time Congress acted in this area.  But the Act is—to use a tech term—buggy.  It doesn’t sufficiently tamp down potential legal liability for private entities, and in some cases increases it, creating an insurmountable disincentive for companies to voluntarily share cyber information. It leaves owners of critical infrastructure subject to civil litigation and outsized damages if an attack happens, even when they fully comply with the Act’s mandates. Before the Act comes out of beta, Congress should debug its liability protection provisions.  Here’s how: