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To Promote an Open Internet, NSA Should Limit Data Collection

Edward Snowden’s 2013 surveillance disclosures have hindered the US government’s ability to promote cyberspace norms such as openness, security, and minimal government oversight. In order to adhere to these norms and restore US credibility, the National Security Agency (NSA) should “limit its own freedom” to conduct intelligence operations, argues Henry Farrell, Georgetown University associate professor of political science and international affairs, in a new Cyber Brief.

The benefits of data collection “must be more clearly weighed against the potential damage to the normative commitments to an open and secure Internet,” writes Farrell, who urges intelligence-gathering agencies to “adopt a fundamental change of mind-set.”

Farrell’s report, “Promoting Norms for Cyberspace,” is the first in a new Council on Foreign Relations series of Cyber Briefs—short memos that offer policy recommendations on cybersecurity, Internet governance, online privacy and the trade of digital goods and services.

Promoting cyberspace norms, Farrell contends, could dissuade state actors from carrying out cyberattacks, and encourage international cooperation to develop preventive strategies. Farrell also recommends that Washington:

  • Create an independent panel of technical experts to mediate cyber disputes, which could provide evidence to substantiate official US attempts to name and shame malicious actors in cyberspace; and
  • Rely more on allies and non-state actors to promote shared cyberspace norms. “New norms will not be seen as legitimate if they are perceived to be solely a projection of US interests,” he points out.

Farrell acknowledges that his recommendations will require a significant shift in American cyber strategy, but insists that their implementation would putthe United States “in a much better place to promote norms and, in the process, restore its own credibility.”

Read the complete commentary here.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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