A few months ago, the mere mention of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) put every Internet user on edge. Influential sites, such as Google and Wikipedia, took up arms fighting either for or against its passage into formal law. Since then, the public’s efforts managed to banish the bill from Congress.
Just as the American public was catching its breath, a new bill came into the picture. This new bill is CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing & Protecting Act) and it takes SOPA’s ideas of taking information from Internet users and puts a twist on it. In this version, the businesses doing the digging on their customers are not held responsible for their actions.
Ben Huh, CEO of the weblog I Can Haz Cheezburger? in a review with ProPublica summed up his opposition in one statement: “This is SOPA’s cousin who works for the CIA.”
Despite the negative implications, the Act’s intentions in theory are generally good. It seeks to end cyber threats and protect America and its people. Private businesses, such as
Facebook, share information that they believe poses a threat to the public or their company with the government.
While this all sounds perfectly sound and just, the vague wording of the bill leaves it open to much criticism and interpretation. Ending Internet piracy is hard to argue against. With the amount of elbowroom that CISPA gives businesses and the government, they could easily take your personal information just for speaking about something they find “inconvenient.”
The infamous group Anonymous stated in one of their latest videos concerning the bill, “The wording within the CISPA allows the government to interpret the law in such a number of degrees that any online communication could be suspect and unknowingly monitored.”
In other words, simply speaking out of term in a chat room is liable to get an individual monitored by the government. Due to the regulations of CISPA, the individual is not allowed to know what is being collected because it is “proprietary.”
Thanks to some of the public backlash from this bill’s creation, the founders agreed to edit the wording in order to make its explanation more direct and fair.
An article from the Daily Kos reported that representative Janice Hahn of California submitted that “would make Homeland Security destroy personally identifiable data after a year has elapsed.”
Still, these amendments seem to be missing the bigger picture. Although they come across with positive goals, they do little to protect the information of ordinary Americans. While protecting companies against attacks by sharing the attacker’s information to others to prevent another assault seems great, taking that same information from an innocent customer is not.
On April 26, 2012, the House of Representatives passed CISPA. Its next step is get through the Senate as well as the White House.
President Barack Obama is currently opposed to the bill and threatened to veto it should it not adjust its conditions. Time reported the President saying that the bill’s regulations made the information sharing “broad,” and in order to gain more favor it must “first make reasonable efforts to remove identifying information unrelated to cybersecurity threats.”
With tweaking and discussion, CISPA could very well help to protect the citizens of the United States from cyber-related threats. Until this happy medium is reached, citizens may speak up against it by informing their state’s representatives of how they feel about the bill.
No real progress can be made until all parties, opposed, supporters and undecided, have reached an agreement.
Like many informative videos from YouTube, Common Sense Films made its stance clear in its CISPA-themed clip.
“We’re concerned Americans who want to be proud of our government, not scared of it.”
Common Sense Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xLjj6RD6-MI
All About CISPA Video:
The Verge Article:
Daily Kos Article: