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Cyber Policy Experts Call for Better Laws on Online Security

cyber policy

The online security bills U.S. lawmakers are trying to legislate are “misguided” and designed to break encryption protecting personal privacy, according to cyber policy experts Tarah Wheeler and Geoffrey Cain.

Wheeler, a Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow for global cyber policy, and Cain, a senior fellow in the tech policy think tank Foundation for American Innovation, wrote in a CFR blog post on Monday that the proposed legislations are instituting “surveillance by default.” They called “alarming” the shared characteristic of the proposed bills that call for a set of legal exceptions that would effectively “turn your phone into a cop in your pocket.”

Wheeler and Cain noted a rise in such bills since the start of 2023, citing as one example the RESTRICT Act that would enable the Department of Commerce to ban foreign tech companies and bypass the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

The blog post also called the EARN IT Act a surveillance-by-default bill, mandating companies’ hunt for child sexual abuse material by tapping into users’ private communications. A similar bill in France proposes backdoors in smart phones for law enforcement.

Instead of passing laws that they called Band-Aids, Wheeler and Cain suggested passing a National Privacy Standard defining clear encryption rules and limits to data harvesting.

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