Senator Wyden proposes Teams and Slack to work together (and encrypted)

Senator Wyden proposes Teams and Slack to work together (and encrypted)

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That’s what the Secure and Interoperable Government Collaboration Technology Act draft, proposed by Senator Ron Wyden, reads.

In other words, Senator Wyden wants to see the popular platforms in an “interoperability” mode.

Interoperability stands for “the ability to work together with other systems or pieces of equipment”, as put by the Cambridge Dictionary. Applied to the mobile tech world, that means it enables cross-platform communication and data exchange between two different apps.

In even simpler terms, interoperability is when Person 1 (a Facebook Messenger user) texts Person 2 (a Telegram user) directly. There’s no need for Person 1 to download and use Person 2’s app of choice (in this example – Telegram).

More about the bill

As reported by The Verge, the newly-introduced idea is aimed at improving how the federal government uses technology for meetings and messages. Senator Wyden’s proposal suggests that all communication tools the government uses, like video calls and messaging apps (from different companies), should work together seamlessly.

Apart from allowing users to interconnect between apps easily, under the Act these tools would have to meet strict security measures, including end-to-end encryption, to keep conversations private and safe from unwanted spying.

While the proposed idea would only apply to government tools for now, it might encourage similar changes in the wider tech industry, making it easier for everyone to connect regardless of the app they use.

To make this happen, the proposal instructs the General Services Administration (GSA) to list important features needed for government work, like video calls, messaging, sharing files, scheduling, and editing documents together in real time.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would then set up rules to ensure these tools can work together, focusing on strong encryption to protect the data and making sure these systems keep proper records as required by law.

Companies making these tech tools would have four years to update their products to meet these new standards if they want to keep selling to the government.

Additionally, the proposal calls for regular check-ups on the tech used by the government to suggest any needed updates and for the Department of Homeland Security to conduct security reviews on these tools.

This effort comes after concerns about the risks of relying too heavily on single tech vendors, highlighted by a security mishap involving Microsoft that could have been prevented. Senator Wyden argues that it’s time to reduce the reliance on big tech firms by encouraging competition and setting higher security standards.

This move is supported by various groups advocating for digital rights and secure communication technologies.

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