In the wake of all the other news this week, the House passing the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protect Act (CISPA) has gone largely unnoticed this Thursday. Well, I’m here to tell you to take notice. Now, at least if you value your privacy. Would you like to know who these 288 Hose Representatives are that just voted away your internet privacy, well they are listed here.
Mike Rogers (R-MI) first introduced the bill into the House on November 30, 2011. If you can believe it, Roger's wife also stands to significantly benefit financially from the passage of CISPA. Ah, now his rabid support of a terrible bill is making slightly more sense. The bill died in 2012 in the Senate, but it was brought up again this year by two members of the House Intelligence Committee. So what does CISPA actually do? The Center for Democracy and Technology explains it this way:
“However, the bill goes much further, permitting ISPs to funnel private communications and related information back to the government without adequate privacy protections and controls. The bill does not specify which agencies ISPs could disclose customer data to, but the structure and incentives in the bill raise a very real possibility that the National Security Agency or the DOD’s Cybercommand would be the primary recipient.”
This bill is just too vague to be useful. Addressing cyber-security is important but doing so at whatever cost is not acceptable. We've seen the Supreme Court strike down vague laws about the internet in the past and I can't see how this bill would be any different. As it currently stands, it's hard to see how it would pass any kind of constitutional muster. In one section of the bill “cyber threat information” is defined like this:
“ ... directly pertaining to a vulnerability of, or threat to a system or network of a government or private entity, including information pertaining to the protection of the system or network from—(A) efforts to degrade, disrupt or destroy such system or network; or (B) theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property or personally identifiable information.”
At least President Obama has signaled that he would veto the bill if it came across his desk. This bill is truly terrible for privacy and it also isn't specific on how exactly it would go about addressing cyber-security concerns. The bill lacks sufficient oversight, doesn’t detail how the data can be used, and is far too broad in its definition of what makes-up a cyber security threat in the first place. Companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel and IBM have expressed support for the bill and that’s upset Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
The bill that was just passed by the House earlier Thursday is also dangerous because it overrules all existing federal and state laws concerning privacy policies and wiretapping.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a self-protected entity may, for cybersecurity purposes -- (i) use cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property of such self-protected entity; and (ii) share such cyber threat information with any other entity, including the Federal Government...The term 'self-protected entity' means an entity, other than an individual, that provides goods or services for cybersecurity purposes to itself."
The American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Reporters Without Borders all oppose CISPA in its current form. CISPA would essentially allow the federal government to “compile a database of information shared by privacy companies and search that information for possible violations of hundreds, if not thousands, of criminal laws.” Uh, thanks but no thanks.
If you are like me and value your privacy, then please contact your local Representatives and tell them to not to support this incredible violation of our privacy online. Also, let Mike Rogers know that you aren't a 14-year-old in your basement, rather an informed voter who takes offense to direct violations of your privacy on and offline.
Here's how to contact your Congressional Representative: Contact Information Here
If you are not sure who your local Representative is, you can locate them using this website.
May the force of the internet be with you.