The World of Web

CISPA; A Backdoor Bill For SOPA / PIPA?

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is a United States proposed law introduced on November 30, 2011 by U.S. Representative Michael Rogers (R-MI) and 29 co-sponsors (Companies).

The bill would give the U.S. government additional options and resources to ensure the security of networks against attacks and enforce copyright and patents. The bill was reported out of committee on December 1, 2011 and has yet to be debated or brought to a vote.

This controversial bill is already widely criticised by advocates of Internet privacy and neutrality, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Avaaz.org, because it contains few limits on how and when the U.S. Government may monitor private information, and because few safeguards are included as to how the data may be used; they claim that such new powers are likely to be used to find and punish file sharers rather than foreign spies or hackers.

AVAAZ is committed to stopping any and all censorship of the internet. In their own words, “Help Save The Internet From The U.S”. If you would like to show your support and stop the CISTA bill. you can by completing their petition HERE. Avaaz sees the bill as a threat against “Our democracy and civil liberties from the excessive and unnecessary Internet surveillance powers it grants. The Internet is a crucial tool for people around the world to exchange ideas and work collectively to build the world we all want”.

Congress is set to act on Cyber-Security legislation that has been making its way through committees in both chambers for several years. The House is set to vote on these bills during the week of April 23, dubbed “Cybersecurity Week.” The Senate will take action soon after.

A lot of important work has gone into these bills that are intended to strengthen both the government and civilian response to cyber threats. This in theory is an amicable notion. Yet parts of these bills are alarming because, if passed, any information we put online, work, play, personal and sensitive could be put at risk.

The broad language means there is no explicit restriction about the type of information being shared between government and companies, so long as it could somehow be linked to cyber-threats. That’s very worrisome on privacy grounds, since it makes it easier for companies to hand over any information the government asks for and not worry about getting sued.

Under Rogers, once your personal information is in the hands of the government it can be used for any national security purpose, including to track patterns of communications to decide whether to seek authorization to wiretap you. It can be used to prosecute you for any crime.

So why is the House leadership trumpeting the Rogers bill and why are so many companies lining up to support it?

For companies, the answer is easy: there is freedom to share information with whatever entity they please, blanket immunity for sharing, blanket immunity for a recipient of shared cyber-security information who fails to take protective measures even when they are clearly needed, and no regulatory burdens are imposed.

For House leadership, the answer seems to be that it is not listening to Internet users.

Perhaps it’s time for us to shout our objections more loudly?”

A number of companies and groups dear to our web hearts support these bills including – Microsoft, IBM, AT&T, Facebook, and Verizon – you can find a full list that support CISPA HERE. And it’s co-sponsors can be found HERE.

The bill describes cyber threat as a “vulnerability of, or threat to, a system or network of a government or private entity, including information pertaining to the protection of a system or network from either ‘efforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such system or network;’ or ‘theft or misappropriation of private or government information, intellectual property, or personally identifiable information.'”.

How would this play out in the real world? As Government Computer News reported, “Companies and government agencies alike are using tools to sweep the Internet–blogs, websites, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter feeds–to find out what people are saying about, well, just about anything.” Maybe even The Zuphorian.

“Not surprisingly,” GCN’s Patrick Marshall wrote, “intelligence agencies have already been looking at social media as a source of information. The Homeland Security Department has been analyzing traffic on social networks for at least the past three years.”

Due to the opposition the bill has experienced, the co-sponsors are planning to amend the bill to address many of the concerns of its opponents – including limiting its use to a more limited definition of cyber-threats, and stating that the “theft of intellectual property” refers to the theft of research and development. In addition, there will now be penalties if private companies or the government uses data from CISPA for purposes “unrelated to cyberthreats.”

Do you agree or disagree with CISPA? Do you believe the internet has too many monitoring bodies? What views on this article? all comments either for or against the points raised within this artlcle are welcome.

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