This past summer, lawmakers in Washington were attempting to pass a wide-ranging cybersecurity bill with the intention of strengthening the nation’s infrastructure from cyber attacks. Democratic lawmakers were pushing a bill that would have given regulatory agencies the power to mandate security measures on private industries, such as power companies and other utilities. Republican lawmakers were leery of the regulatory burdens that this could cause, so they proposed their own bill—one that would have made it possible for companies to turn over sensitive customer information to government agencies. With both parties butting heads, neither bill was passed.
Now, it looks like the White House will be issuing an executive order to enact the cyber regulations that it wants. The order, which is said to resemble the Senate bill proposed by Senator Lieberman that was stalled this summer, would enact a series of voluntary guidelines for companies to follow. These guidelines would include companies voluntarily submitting threat information to government agencies and security standards that the government wishes companies to follow and meet.
An executive order is an interesting step from the Obama administration. Rather than go through the legislative process, they plan to issue a decree on what regulations will be enacted. Of course, from what we know now, the executive order will be “voluntary.” But orders from the executive branch are rarely voluntary, as the Daily Caller notes that the Lieberman bill would have given federal agencies the power to impose certain regulations on industries as they see fit.
The use of executive power to regulate should give consumers concern. Congress exists for a reason—to create laws. The executive branch exists to enforce them. The executive branch assuming the role of creator and enforcer of laws puts too much power into the hands of one branch of government. Administrations can’t rule by fiat. Many critics argue that the cybersecurity executive order could give too much power to the government to regulate the Internet. The costs that could be born from these regulations are completely unforeseen, especially since we’re not sure what the executive branch agencies might see fit to regulate. But you can be sure that as regulations on industry increases, so do the prices that are passed onto consumers. And any regulation of the Internet, even for security purposes over selected industries, should give concerns of a slippery slope to other sectors as well. Consumers should be leery of “voluntary” regulations—they most certainly mean higher costs.
Zack Christenson is a digital tech writer for the American Consumer Institute