Bill Would Give President Emergency Control Of Internet

Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.

They’re not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.

The new version would allow the president to “declare a cybersecurity emergency” relating to “non-governmental” computer networks and do what’s necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for “cybersecurity professionals,” and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.

“I think the redraft, while improved, remains troubling due to its vagueness,” said Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance, which counts representatives of Verizon, Verisign, Nortel, and Carnegie Mellon University on its board. “It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill.”

Representatives of other large Internet and telecommunications companies expressed concerns about the bill in a teleconference with Rockefeller’s aides this week, but were not immediately available for interviews on Thursday.

A spokesman for Rockefeller also declined to comment on the record Thursday, saying that many people were unavailable because of the summer recess. A Senate source familiar with the bill compared the president’s power to take control of portions of the Internet to what President Bush did when grounding all aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001. The source said that one primary concern was the electrical grid, and what would happen if it were attacked from a broadband connection.

Read full article here: CNET

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Big Brother, Educated Idiots Team Up To Watch Twits

Measuring Real Time Public Opinion With Twitter

The NY Times reports that statisticians from the University of Vermont are hoping to harness the stream of messages flowing through Twitter to read public opinion and sentiment in real time. “Twitter is a reflection of what people are interested in right now,” says Peter Dodds, adding that the goal is to establish an index, akin to the Dow Jones industrial average, that can “give an overall sense of how a collective body of people are feeling at any given point in time.” Dodds says he and his colleagues are analyzing about 1,000 tweets each minute, or about a million a day, looking for trends in descriptive words and phrases that indicate moods and emotions. In addition, the two can monitor the public reaction to news or policy announcement and track it over time. The tool is still in its early stages, but eventually Dodds hopes that it could work similarly to Google Flu Trends, a Web tool that doubles as an early-warning system for flu outbreaks by detecting spikes in certain search terms. Since relationships and conversations are so intrinsic to how people communicate on Twitter, the researchers hope that observing how one user’s mood is affected by another might shed some light on crowd behavior and emotional contagion. ‘All of this data serves as a remote sensor of well-being,’ Dodds says.