2016 Update: When we first published this article, CISPA had Americans fuming; but, the bill ultimately failed. In 2015, politicians reintroduced CISPA, without significant changes. As such, this “CISPA explained” blog post from 2012 still holds true. ***Original Article***
Remember the PIPA and SOPA drama? Well, now we have the Cyber Intelligence Sharing Protection Act (CISPA) — yet another attempt to curtail cyber crimes. 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. It’s being sold as a “defense weapon” in the battle to prevent cyber attacks.
Two CISPA Provision Proposals Have People Talking
If passed, the law would allow:
Government agents to access digital accounts, read and interpret personal emails, and then act as they see fit.
ISPs and social media platforms to disseminate personal data to the government without penalty.
CISPA specifics aren’t all that specific. 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.
Why Professionals Are Concerned About CISPA
A spokesperson for the Center for Democracy and Technology, Kendall Burman, says Congress is considering several cyber security bills, but she’s worried that CISPA could negatively impact the open Internet.
CISPA’s authors insist its purpose is to thwart baddies by sharing certain threat information between digital platforms and the intelligence community. And while cyber attack threats are a reality, CISPA, by design, allows the government to act upon arbitrary evidence.
Will The Government Become Over-mighty?
According to the Center for Democracy and Technology, CISPA gives ISPs the right to forward private communications straight to the U.S. government, privacy protections be damned.
Another Internet advocacy group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has also expressed concerns for CISPA’s potential impact on the future of the Internet and seeming 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. If a company can convincingly claim its actions were motivated by “cyber security purposes,” they can, theoretically, 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.
Will it pass? Time will tell. Currently, Capitol Hill is supportive, and many tech companies are fine with it, too. Let the lobbying begin!
Kelly / Warner Law handles all manners of Internet law issues.