Blumenthal and Bono Mack Discuss Privacy, Cybersecurity Legislation


Last Thursday morning, Politico Pro presented a briefing focused on cyberprivacy and cybersecurity. Participating in the discussion were Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Dr. Thomas M. Lenard (President and Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute), and Tim Sparanpani (Principal at SPQR Strategies, PLLC).

The briefing began with a discussion of the pending Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Act (CISPA). This pending legislation would increase the ability of the government and private sector to share cyber threat information. While both Sen. Blumenthal and Rep. Bono Mack agreed that the cyber threat is significant and real, they disagreed about provisions of CIPSA. While Bono Mack supports the bill in its current form, Blumenthal believes that the bill needs greater privacy protections and should include a private right of action. Blumenthal also broached the idea of creating a new cybersecurity agency to protect the country against cyber attacks. Bono Mack responded that creating a new agency would not be a panacea, and that the best solution is to empower the private sector to find solutions.

Blumenthal and Bono Mack also expressed differing opinions about privacy legislation. Blumenthal voiced his support for baseline privacy legislation. He said that people understand privacy, and they should have knowledge of data practices and the option to give consent to data collection. Bono Mack, on the other hand, said people frequently choose convenience over privacy, and there should be more Congressional hearings on privacy. Her first choice, she said, was for industry self-regulation; only if this failed, should Congress pass privacy legislation. Tim Sparanpani meanwhile voiced optimism that app developers are taking privacy seriously. He also noted the importance of data minimization and warned against legislation that would inhibit the ability of the private sector to develop new, innovative products and solutions.

One area where Blumenthal and Bono Mack did agree was on data breach legislation. They both voiced their support for data breach legislation, and such legislation has strong bipartisan support.

Overall, the participants were in broad agreement about what needs to be done; all agreed that privacy is very important, and the U.S. urgently needs to increase cybersecurity.  However, as with so many events on cybersecurity and cyberprivacy legislation, the participants held divergent opinions about the best way to accomplish these goals. The discussion, while informative, did not seem to indicate an immediate compromise solution.


-Steven Beale