The White House today appointed Sonus President and CEO Raymond Dolan to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC). Dolan will sit on the committee with twenty other tech, aerospace, telecommunications, and development figures, including Chairs Mark McLaughlin of Intel (News - Alert) and Renee James of Palo Alto.
The NSTAC is an advisory council to Homeland Security, a branch of the Executive Office. The group convenes to address telecommunication concerns of national interest. Specifically, the committee is tasked with ensuring the availability and reliability of telecommunications during times of emergency. The council provides industry advice, recommendations, and reports on how to keep lines of communications open during worst-case scenarios.
The NSTAC most recently began an initiative to analyze big data’s effects on National Security/Emergency Preparedness (NS/EP). In March, 2015, the NSTAC formed the NSTAC Big Data Analytics Subcommittee, and plans to put out their findings by May, 2016. It is not immediately clear whether Dolan will sit on, consult, or weigh in on this initiative.
The government’s current relationship with telecommunications and big data is, to say the least, strained. After the Snowden leaks (which the administration refers to as the “Snowden disclosures”), the American people have championed privacy and decried the metadata collection efforts of the NSA. After the uncovering of the Prism project, in which citizens learned that corporations disclosed personal information to the government, many grew suspicious of the cozy relationship between tech companies and surveillance agencies.
Now, the passing of CISA has legalized and extended the relationship between business and national security agencies. And although CISA has been largely absent from the presidential campaign rhetoric, potential candidates have begun a public debate about encrypted services. Candidates who favor strong security measures want to be granted backdoor access to encrypted services, while privacy advocates claim the government has no right to citizens’ communications.
NSTAC gives leaders in the telecom field a vantage point through which to express their concerns, opinions, and ideas. In addition to their NS/EP initiatives, it would be nice to see the committee come to some agreement on national security, privacy, and industry concerns.
Perhaps newcomer Dolan could chair that subcommittee?