Share & Connect
Thursday, April 26, the House of Representative approved the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) on a bipartisan vote by a margin of 248 to 168, despite the threat of a possible veto by President Obama.
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act would allow the government to access web users’ private data and to pass on information to commercial companies on suspicion of cyber attacks and hacker threats, and it would allow also the companies to share their users’ information with the government and security agencies to ensure the networks’ security.
The Obama Administration strongly opposes the measure and it says the law repeals “important provisions of electronic surveillance law without instituting corresponding privacy, confidentiality and civil liberties safeguards.”
In a statement on Wednesday, the White House has also threatened to veto the House bill. “[CISPA] would allow broad sharing of information with governmental entities without establishing requirements for both industry and the government to minimize and protect personally identifiable information,” reads the statement. “The broad liability protection not only removes a strong incentive to improving cybersecurity, it also potentially undermines our Nation’s economic, national security, and public safety interests.”
Instead of putting private information and cybersecurity in the hands of military and intelligence agencies, the White House would prefer a Senate measure to give the “central role” to the Department of Homeland Security, which is a civilian agency.
Despite the opposition of the Administration, the bill passed with some amendments to the original that moderate its effects and limit the government’s use of threat information to specific purposes such as the protection of individuals from death or serious bodily harm investigation and the prosecution of cybersecurity crimes; protection of minors from exploitation; and the protection of national security.
Advocacy groups, CISPA opponent coalitions and lawmakers strongly condemned the passage of the bill, arguing that these amendments are not enough to assure users’ privacy protection.
“CISPA goes too far for little reason,” said ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson. “Cybersecurity does not have to mean abdication of Americans’ online privacy. As we’ve seen repeatedly, once the government gets expansive national security authorities, there’s no going back. We encourage the Senate to let this horrible bill fade into obscurity.”
“In an effort to foster information sharing, this bill would erode the privacy protections of every single American using the Internet. It would create a “Wild West” of information sharing,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.
CISPA was introduced by Republican Rep. Mike Rogers in November 2011 and it is supported by more than 800 private companies. Among those include Facebook, Microsoft, AT&T, Intel, IBM and Verizon.
“We can’t stand by and do nothing as US companies are hemorrhaging from the cyber looting coming from nation states like China and Russia,” said Rep. Mike Rogers. “America will be a little safer and our economy better protected from foreign cyber predators with this legislation.” “There is no government surveillance, none, not any in this bill,” he argued referring to the legislation.
Over the last weeks, activist groups and organizations like Avaaz.org, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Reporters Without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, strongly criticized CISPA and launched campaigns to turn the spotlight on the internet privacy right issues tied to it.
In a video released on April 27, titled “Operation Defense. Phase II,” the famous hacker group ‘Anonymous’ called on American CISPA opponents to take the battle to the street and organize local protests at the offices of the companies that support the bill between May and June.
“Remember, you have a right to protest if you care about your freedom of speech, your right to privacy and your government censoring you. This is your time to act now. We will defend our home. Operation Defense phase two engaged. We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Supporters of CISPA, you should have expected us,” the video statement concludes.
After SOPA, CISPA is the new battle for the internet, but what will be the next?