Leahy Files Amendments To Address Digital Privacy Provisions In Cybersecurity Bill

Leahy R&D Amendment Underscores Norwich University’s ‘Test Bed’ Simulations Of Cyber Threats

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, July 31) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a champion of protecting individual privacy and promoting American innovation, has filed several amendments to the Cybersecurity Act, now on the Senate Floor, that will address privacy issues in the legislation.  One of Leahy’s amendments underscores the usefulness of an approach used by Norwich University to simulate cyber threats.

Leahy has filed four amendments to the bill to enhance the privacy protections for American consumers and businesses in cyberspace and promote innovation. His proposals are drawn from legislation he has authored which has been considered by the Judiciary Committee.  Another amendment filed by Leahy will help with cybersecurity research and development (R&D).

The R&D amendment filed by Leahy amends the Cybersecurity Act “test beds” provision under the cognizance of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  These “test beds” simulate real-world network environments to help train cybersecurity specialists in defending against intrusion.  Norwich University in Vermont has led similar efforts to develop solutions to address cyber threats to critical online infrastructure.  Leahy’s amendment will ensure that the existing efforts by Norwich and other entities already operating test beds are the starting point for the new efforts under the OSTP.  A decade ago earlier Leahy legislation underscored Norwich University’s national role as a center of training and expertise on cyber security.

“Developing a comprehensive strategy for cybersecurity is one of the most pressing challenges facing our nation today,” said Leahy.  “In the information age, stronger privacy protections are also needed to safeguard Americans’ personal information and private communications in cyberspace.  I hope all Senators will support these amendments to enhance privacy in cyberspace.”

Among the amendments filed by Leahy is a cybercrime amendment that includes several recommendations contained in the President’s cybersecurity proposal submitted to Congress in May 2011.  The amendment would, among other things, bolster tools for law enforcement to prevent and prosecute cyber crime by strengthening and clarifying the penalties for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.  The proposal would also create a new criminal offense for cyberattacks involving damage to a government computer than manages critical infrastructure information. 

Leahy also filed a data privacy amendment that would establish a single nationwide standard to notify consumers about data breaches involving their sensitive personal information.  Another amendment would require that companies that maintain electronic databases containing sensitive personal information to implement data privacy and security programs to mitigate the risk of data security breaches. Both amendments mirror  provisions in the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act, which the Judiciary Committee most recently approved last year.

Another amendment filed by Leahy would update two vital digital privacy laws sponsored and co-authored earlier by Leahy – the Video Privacy Protection Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act – to better address the needs of consumers and the technology sector in the digital age.  The amendment would permit the online sharing of video viewing information with a consumer’s consent.  The amendment would also provide several new privacy protections for email and other electronic communications – including requiring that the government obtain a search warrant based on probable cause in order to obtain the content of email. 

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