Reaction to the latest development in President Obama’s efforts to balance privacy and national security is mixed.Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn and other U.S. tech giants will be allowed to disclose more information about how often the government requires them to turn over customer data as part of an agreement announced early today by the Justice Department.
Tom Kellermann, managing director at consultancy Alvarez & Marsal, credits Obama for a laying out a balanced strategy to “protect American business and citizens.”
“The executive order creates a standard of care which corporations should adhere to in order to protect the privacy and security of US citizens,” Kellermann says. “Much like buildings have fire codes we need a cyber code.”
However, Vinnie Liu, managing partner at security consultancy Bishop Fox, says the new rules won’t greatly change the status quo.
Consumer knowledge of the number or type of requests being made “does nothing to assuage consumer’s real concern – whether their private data is being given to the NSA,” says Liu. “This rule change is just a straw man and the people and businesses who are truly concerned about their data protection know this.”
Dave Jevans, chief technology officer at mobile security firm Marble Security, says the new rules will “will help consumers realize that they are in a surveillance state, for better or worse. The good thing about these changes is that it will allow the public to see big changes in trends, and react to them.”
Jevans says the impact on the government intelligence effortsn will be nil. “Everyone knows the scope of surveillance,” Jevans says. “The time delays and the bucketing of requests give citizens a heartbeat on surveillance, without the ability to gain any details.”
Cameron Camp, security researcher at ESET, says the new rules should make the tech giants more willling to comply with justified data requests.
As for allaying privacy fears, he says: “If consumers feel the government is being responsive, yet guarded, it will serve to start the conversation, whereas before it was very one-sided, and industry could do little but comply.”