CISPA Explained By Internet Lawyer

Remember the PIPA and SOPA drama? Well, now we have the Cyber Intelligence Sharing Protection Act — commonly known as 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.

Someone Explain This CISPA Thing 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. Unfortunately, Americans who live in America, don’t qualify for the protection from the American government.

What is the bottom CISPA line? Simply put, if the government suspects, or can justify its concerns, for an alleged cyber crime, it can step in, read and interpret your emails and act accordingly. It also allows 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 does contain allowances for Congress to permit authorities to bypass current online privacy exemptions. If passed, “Big Brother” will 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 several cybersecurity bills are currently being considered by Congress. Her concerns are for the provisions within CISPA that could negatively impact the open Internet. At this point, CISPA has been formally introduced, referred and reported and is expected to be voted upon within the coming weeks.

CISPA’s authors claim 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 fear-inducing 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]

Two Online Advocates Advocate Dissension

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 and any related info straight to the U.S. government. Privacy protection and controls are ignored and damned in the process. The existing CISPA verbiage does not specify exactly which government agencies the ISPs could or should be disclosed to. However, the CDT’s concern is that the National Security Agency and/or the Department of Defense’s Cyber-command would be the expected recipient.

Another Internet advocacy group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has also expressed their concerns for CISPA and its potential impact on the future of the Internet. They’re vehemently against CISPA’s complete lack of consideration for individual privacy. CISPA contains very few restrictions on what information can be collected or the manner in which it is used. 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 CISPA law, companies like Twitter, Google, AT&T and Facebook could forward your confidential info off 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. That evaluation was confirmed by the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan branch of the Library of Congress. Their summation concludes that any efforts to disrupt, degrade or destroy a network or system of a private entity or government entity is all Washington needs to peruse your communiqu├ęs at will.

In other words, if you create a post, express an opinion or make a comment that is considered derogatory towards the government or elected official, that could be construed as an attempt to degrade the government.

The Likelihood Of CISPA Passing

CISPA has already received the support of over 100 House representatives. Unfortunately, their blanket support of CISPA blatantly ignores the impact it will have on the everyday online life of everyday citizens.

Burman added that once CISPA becomes more aware of the impending statute, and better understands its implications, their voices will be heard loudly. However, she was cautious to express her concern that Americans better get on this one soon to avoid a privacy disaster. CISPA is not nearly as user-centric as SOPA and PIPA was; this will affect everybody who uses the Internet, not just the entertainment aspect but the whole Internet experience.