Telecommunications companies question Apple, Google, Microsoft exception in Obama’s cyber order

“Telecommunications companies want President Barack Obama’s administration to rethink a decision that may exempt Google Inc.’s Gmail, Apple Inc.’s iPhone software and Microsoft Corp.’s Windows from an executive order on cybersecurity,” Eric Engleman reports for Bloomberg.

“Obama’s Feb. 12 order says the government can’t designate ‘commercial information technology products or consumer information technology services’ as critical U.S. infrastructure targeted for voluntary computer security standards,” Engleman reports. “Obama’s order is aimed at areas such as power grids, telecommunications and pipelines. The goal is to protect ‘systems and assets whose incapacitation from a cyber incident would have catastrophic national security and economic consequences,’ White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an e-mail.”

Engleman reports, “Telecommunications and cable companies don’t want to face regulatory burdens and costs that aren’t shared by technology companies, David Kaut, a Washington-based analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co., said in an interview. ‘The telecom community is concerned the tech industry is going to get a free pass here,’ Kaut said. ‘You have an ecosystem and only the network guys are going to get submitted to government scrutiny.'”

“Obama’s executive order mirrors parts of a Senate bill that was blocked last year by Republicans who said the standards would be burdensome to industry. Lawmakers are working on new legislation,” Engleman reports. “The Internet Association, a trade group whose members include Google, Facebook, and Amazon.com Inc., urged the White House and Congress to ‘ensure that all Internet services are not subject to regulation,’ the group’s president, Michael Beckerman, said in an e-mailed statement.”

Read more in the full article here.

19 Comments

  1. How many times has Obama said “we need to even the playing field”? Answer: hundreds. And he is full of crap every time.
    Obama makes rules for everybody but his cronies. Just look at his Obamacare waivers and this technology executive order. This is extortion, pure and simple. Contribute to his war chest and you’ll get a waiver, too.

    1. Executive orders can only affect federal departments. They cannot impose anything on private companies. Because the airwaves and Internet spectrums are deemed owned and/or under direct federal regulation, an executive order can be imposed on any company providing services over those airwaves.

      However, the fact is that no product from Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. has much value without being able to connect to these networks, so those providers can demand Apple, Google, Amazon, etc. make security changes to their devices as well or they can start restricting network access because the devices won’t comply with the new security requirements.

      1. First, you have an incorrect view of Presidential Executive Orders. They CAN and DO affect commercial entities. For all practical purposes they carry a similar weight as law unless Congress says otherwise or a subsequent PEO supersedes or voids it. For just one of many, many examples a PEO by George W. Bush raised the jail time for violating commercial export regulations from a maximum of 10 years per violation to 20 years per violation — and that’s for any person in the U.S. or any U.S. Citizen anywhere on the planet. You don’t have to be part of the U.S. Government for the PEO to pertain to you.

    2. I’d say it is a level playing field. There are companies that can be viewed as critical infrastructure and others that just take advantage of that infrastructure.

      Are you saying that GMail or iMessage or HotMail is a critical infrastructure? I doubt very much that you are. So why put the companies that sell these in the same category as companies that supply true, critical infrastructure?

      I’m sure you’d agree that all the remaining Baby Bells (I’m probably showing my age here) are true, critical infrastructure. If the largest Baby Bell on the east coast went down, the U.S. Government and several State Governments would be screwed. If Hotmail went down it would be a major annoyance to a lot of people but it would not shut down the government. (You’d probably be shocked if you found out how much the U.S. Government relies on POTS [Plain Old Telephone Service} lines!)

      If ConEd went down completely due to some massive cyber breach, much of our financial and government systems in the region would be severely hampered if not shut down outright. If iMessage died Apple product users would be frustrated (and AAPL would take a $50 hit), but that’s about all.

      If PG&E had to shut down several major gas pipelines, there would be huge effects on the populace. If GMail went offline for a week there would be lots of nasty articles online about it, and people would migrate to other solutions. But that’s about it.

      I don’t believe anyone can rightfully say that Apple or Google or Microsoft or Amazon or any other such company is truly critical infrastructure. They’re just not.

      1. “If the largest Baby Bell on the east coast went down, the U.S. Government and several State Governments would be screwed.”
        Naaaaahhh… they’d just turn to their Blackberries.

  2. it looks pretty simple to me set up an intra net for those sensitive systems make it bulletproof and leave the rest of the internet alone .then we would not have to listen to George’s race bating Obama conspiracy theories. and he can go back to ranting about free welfare phones

    1. It would seem simpler to control the actual network (the superhighway leading to the power grids and pipelines) than G-mail. Maybe we need to recognize the security-critical nature of our telecommunication industry and just nationalize its structure. Let ATT and Verizon contract to build and operate parts of the system, like the Government hires contractors to build roads, but keep the system level design as a Government responsibility. Better that than a flat-assed disaster caused by yielding to a bunch of whining about how burdensome the responsibility for that telecom structure is. What a bunch of babies.

            1. botvinnik, you continue to be an utter asshole on this forum. I thought you had finally gained a tiny bit of sense, but I was obviously mistaken. Don’t screw with this forum.

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