- The days of an open, largely unregulated Internet may soon come to an end.
A bill making its way through Congress proposes to give the U.S. government authority over all networks considered part of the nation's critical infrastructure. Under the proposed Cybersecurity Act of 2009, the president would have the authority to shut down Internet traffic to protect national security.
The government also would have access to digital data from a vast array of industries including banking, telecommunications and energy. A second bill, meanwhile, would create a national cybersecurity adviser -- commonly referred to as the cybersecurity czar -- within the White House to coordinate strategy with a wide range of federal agencies involved.
Nonetheless, the proposal to give the U.S. government the authority to regulate the Internet is sounding alarms among critics who say it's another case of big government getting bigger and more intrusive.
Silicon Valley executives are calling the bill vague and overly intrusive, and they are rebelling at the thought of increased and costly government regulations amid the global economic crisis.
Others are concerned about the potential erosion of civil liberties. "I'm scared of it," said Lee Tien, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based group.
"It's really broad, and there are plenty of laws right now designed to prevent the government getting access to that kind of data. It's the same stuff we've been fighting on the warrantless wiretapping."