CISPA Explained By Internet Lawyer

CISPA explained by Internet lawyer
CISPA explained: If you’re concerned about online privacy, you should be concerned about CISPA.

2015 Update: We first published this article in 2012.  Along with the hot Internet law issues of that year — PIPA and SOPA — CISPA amendments has netizens seeing red. Though it came close, the bill failed. Welp, it’s  2015 and CISPA is once again on tthe legal radar. The amazing thing? The bill remains largely unchanged. To wit, our little “CISPA explained” blog post from 2012 still holds true. So, if you want a quick overview of the bill — and why people are against it — keep scrolling and reading.

***Original Article***

Remember the PIPA and SOPA drama? Well, now we have the Cyber Intelligence Sharing Protection Act  (CISPA) — yet another attempt to curtail cybercrimes. A proposed amendment to the National Security Act of 1947, CISPA was introduced in October 2011, and like SOPA and PIPA, is currently being tweaked and re-drafted to address public concerns.

CISPA Explained In Plain English

D.C. Lawmakers have initiated H.R. 3523, CISPA. Its stated intent is a defense weapon in the battle to prevent cyber attacks against America.

The Two Main CISPA Provision Proposals That have People Talking

Would allow:

  1. Government agents, who can justify their suspicions of an alleged cyber crime, they can access your account, read and interpret your emails, and then act as they see fit.
  2. ISPs and social media platforms to hand over to data to the government without penalty.

The specifics of the law aren’t all that specific, though. The verbiage is vague, but includes allowances to bypass current online privacy exemptions. If passed, the concern is that “Big Brother” would be able to monitor, censor and disrupt any online communication it deems upsetting to the government or private parties.

Why People Are Concerned About CISPA

A spokesperson for the Center for Democracy and Technology, Kendall Burman, says Congress is considering several cybersecurity bills, but she’s worried that CISPA could negatively impact the open Internet. At this point, CISPA has been formally introduced, referred and reported. A vote is expected soon.

CISPA’s authors insist the bill’s intention is to thwart baddies by sharing certain cyber threat intelligence and information between cybersecurity entities and the intelligence community.

While the threat of cyber attacks is a reality, CISPA, by design, allows the government to act upon arbitrary evidence. ([sarcasm]Not that the government has ever acted upon paranoiac fear or without rationale or solid logic…but it could happen, right?[/sarcasm])

Will The Government Become Overmighty?

According to a press release issued by the Center for Democracy and Technology, CISPA gives Internet Service Providers the right to forward your private communications straight to the U.S. government, privacy protections be damned.

The existing CISPA verbiage does not specify to which government agencies the ISPs could or should be disclosed. However, the CDT’s concern is that the National Security Agency and/or the Department of Defense’s Cyber-command could become overmighty.

Another Internet advocacy group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has also expressed concerns for CISPA and its potential impact on the future of the Internet. They’re vehemently against CISPA’s lack of consideration for individual privacy.

CISPA contains very few restrictions on what information can be collected or the manner in which it can be used. As such, if a company can make a convincing claim that its actions were motivated by “cybersecurity purposes,” they can do their invasive surgery and cut into the privacy of any individual.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice About the Government, Don’t Say Anything At All!

Consider this: under the proposed CISPA law, companies like Twitter, Google, AT&T and Facebook could forward your confidential info to the Pentagon if they’re pressured by the government. As long as the government can claim suspicion of wrongdoing on your part, and construe it as threatening, your info is now their info.

The Likelihood Of CISPA Passing

That’s CISPA explained. So, will it pass? Time will tell. Currently, there’s a lot of support on Capitol Hill, and many tech companies are fine with it, too. Let the lobbying begin!

Kelly / Warner Law handles all manners of Internet law issues.