Bill Would Prevent Surveillance Back Doors

A trio of lawmakers representing both sides of the aisle has introduced the Secure Data Act, which would prohibit agencies from requiring that products and services contain surveillance "back doors."

Those are built-in ways for government to bypass data security protections in order to collect information, but the legislators are concerned others could exploit that back door.

A similar bill passed in the House last year but did not make it into law.

The bill is co-sponsored by Jim Sensenbrenner (R- Wis.), Thomas Massie (R- Ky.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who said of the legislation: "Last Congress, the Massie-Sensenbrenner-Lofgren amendment garnered support from an overwhelming bi-partisan majority in the House as a provision to the Defense Appropriations bill, but unfortunately, was not included in the CRomnibus. With threats to our homeland ever prevalent, we should not tie the hands of the intelligence community. But unwarranted, backdoor surveillance is indefensible. The Secure Data Act is an important step in rebuilding public trust in our intelligence agencies and striking the appropriate balance between national security and civil liberty.”

They also point out that such backdoors could hurt the economy, saying that other countries would buy less hardware and software to avoid the back door-compromised products.

Lofgren is also co-sponsor of the Surveillance Order Reporting Act, which would allow communications companies to estimate the number of government requests for data and the number of people affected.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.