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Politicians Amend Controversial CISPA Security Bill

| 25 Apr 2012 17:13
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CISPA, an accused relative of SOPA, "still fails" on privacy despite recent amendments.

Hey everyone! Remember how much fun we had with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) earlier this year? Man, those were the days. Both bills threatened business, privacy, and the functionality of the internet as we know it and we defeated them through the power of browser-based activism. Good job, internet.

However, it would appear that the U.S. government is not through with controversial internet legislation just yet. For the past few weeks Reddit, Avaaz.org and other such sites have featured prominent calls from activists and commentators urging citizens of the internet to turn their powers of petition against a new cybersecurity bill which they say could be just as harmful as SOPA and PIPA, albeit in slightly different ways. The name of the bill is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), and it's up for debate and vote in Congress at the end of this week.

On the face of it, CISPA looks fairly innocuous; it's designed to allow corporations and the government to share information with each other that would allow them to better track and stop hackers, cyberterrorists, and other such unpleasant types. However, the language of the bill is so broad that analysts fear it could give the government the scope to track internet users' personal data on an indefinite basis without having to tell anyone about it. No warrants, no heads-up, nothing.

To address these fears, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the bill's sponsors, set about amending the legislation and this week presented a version of CISPA which they say is much friendlier towards the rights of the internet-browsing individual. According to reports, the amended bill restricts the government's ability to collect data to situations which involve stopping "cybersecurity, investigating and prosecuting cyber crime, protecting individuals from death or serious bodily harm, protecting minors from child pornography, and ensuring national security."

"I am very pleased with where the bill stands today," Rep. Rogers said in a statement. "Our bill is designed to help protect American companies from advanced foreign cyber threats, like those posed by the Chinese government. It has always been my desire to do that in a manner that doesn't sacrifice the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, and I am confident that we have achieved that goal."

According to some commentators, however, even the amended language is too broad. According to the Center for Democracy and Technology, the bill still "falls short" on privacy. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) of the House Intelligence Committee isn't too pleased either, and has indicated that he intends to make his own amendments to the bill to limit the collection of personal information and "narrowly define" the purposes for which the government can use information obtained from companies.

Despite this, the bill has no shortage of support in Congress. Private sector support for CISPA has been declared by companies such as Facebook and Microsoft. Rep. Rogers is quoted as saying that, "Every corner of the private sector loves this bill...They need the help. They need it now. And they are absolutely under siege."

CISPA's sponsors expect the bill to pass a vote later this week without issue. If you'd like to learn more and register your opposition (if you have any), here's a link an an anti-CISPA Avaaz.org petition which has garnered almost 800,000 signatures so far. The Center for Democracy and Technology's resources page is also a great source of CISPA-news. Wherever you stand, however, time is of the essence in making up your mind; the bill is headed to Congress and a vote as we speak.

Source: Huffington Post

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