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CISPA is Back; All Your Data Are Belong to Us

February 14, 2013 - by Donny Shaw

Barely a year after the defeat of SOPA, Congress is back to testing the waters for legislation that many internet users believe to be in violation of their fundamental rights to privacy and free expression.

CISPA, a bill that would make it easier for corporations and the government to share internet users’ personal data, was officially re-introduced in the House on Wednesday. It’s already being rushed forward in the legislative process. The House Intelligence Committee is holding a full hearing on the bill today at 10 am. They will hear from four witnesses — all from the business sector and all known supporters of CISPA. No experts with concerns about privacy issues in the bill were invited to address the committee.

According to its sponsors, the goal of CISPA is to update how “cyber threat intelligence” information is shared between private entities and the federal government. In order to accomplish this, many long-standing laws that were designed to protect the privacy of individuals would be explicitly voided. With those laws out of the way, companies would be encouraged (but not required) to share information about their users with the government without a warrant and without disclosure, and they would be rewarded with legal impunity for doing so. The government would then be able to use the information that is shared with them for preventing cyber attacks or for any other law enforcement action.

Unlike SOPA, which divided the business community, CISPA enjoys overwhelming support from corporations. The bill’s broad and clear immunity protections appeal to companies that are already involved in the sharing of personal information in a vague, extra-legal setting. And there would be very little risk of public backlash for companies that share user information under CISPA since that would not have to disclose their participation to the public.

According to data compiled by Maplight.org on last year’s version of CISPA, interest groups that have publicly expressed support for CISPA spent 3.6 times more on congressional campaigns of House members in 2012 than interest groups that have come out against the bill. Many of the biggest investors in American politics have expressed support for CISPA, including the Chamber of Commerce, the American Bankers Association, several major defense contractors, and all the big telecom companies. The list of organizations opposing CISPA is also extensive, but it’s made up mainly of public-interest groups that have far less money to invest in persuading politicians.

The re-introduction of CISPA comes less than 24 hours after President Obama announced his executive order on cybersecurity. The executive order compels the government to share cyber threat information with web companies, but it does nothing to increase sharing from companies to the government. From a privacy standpoint, the executive order is neutral. But during the State of the Union address, Obama called on Congress to pass legislation to “give our government a greater capacity to secure our networks and deter attacks.” That’s an implicit request to pass CISPA, and a sign to Congress that the Administration needs the laws changed in order to get the rest of the information sharing program — from web companies to the government — flowing.

Ed. note: the Contact-Congress features in the right-hand sidebar of the CISPA bill page on OC are not working quite yet for known data reasons. In short, we don’t have the full data on the bill from the Library of Congress, so our features to email Congress can’t be hooked up at the moment. We’ll update when they are expected to work. But for now, please do share the bill page and visit CISPAisback from our friends at Fight For the Future to register your opposition. 2:30 pm ET, Thurs. Feb. 14th, 2013. -David

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Comments

  • JustACitizen5 02/14/2013 1:17pm

    WHY CAN I NOT SEND A LETTER TO MY REPRESENTATIVE AND SENATORS TO OPPOSE THIS BILL?!

  • Comm_reply
    davidmoore 02/14/2013 2:38pm

    Hi, added a note above about why it’s not currently possible at the moment to Contact-Congress through OC on this particular CISPA bill – sorry about the delay, it’s required b/c we don’t have full access to legislative data from the LoC – we’ll update when those links in the right-hand sidebar to support/oppose/track CISPA are working with our features to email Congress. Thanks for using OC.

  • Comm_reply
    JustACitizen5 02/15/2013 11:29am

    Sorry for the caps lock. I got a little inpatient. I’m not usually like this and I usually express problems I have in a calmer matter. I thank you now that I have successfully emailed my legislators. You’re welcome too. Open Congress is a marvelous resource and I use it several times a week.

  • Comm_reply
    thorneo 02/21/2013 10:47am

    OC could be the best thing I’ve seen in a while but I can not post leters ether and I have not been able to as long as I’ve had a OC login. I am inpatient for that reason alone. Here we have a great way to contact our government but we can’t. As I’ve said before I’ve lever been able to post to my reps. So why is all this taking so long to implenet?

  • gnostic1 02/15/2013 12:23pm

    I understand why we need security , now more than ever , to protect our power grid and other vital systems, that help keep our country running . Using this premise as a threat, is Not the way to do this. There needs to be open meetings to discuss all the different ways that our country is vulnerable, to outside threats and breaches of security . Now, is the time for free thinking minds to look at this issue and come up with practical solutions , Not control by groups who would like to use the net for their own personal gain.

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