The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protecting Act, or CISPA, has been passed by the House of Representatives, with a vote of 248-162.
The bill, which would allow private companies to share confidential, personal information about their customers with government agencies, ostensibly to guarantee network security, has drawn fire from numerous civil liberties groups.
Aaron Schwartz, an activist who advocates internet freedom, describes the bill as “like a Patriot Act for the Internet. It sort of lets the government run roughshod over privacy protections and share personal data about you, take it from Facebook and Internet providers and use it without the normal privacy protections that are in the law.”
The bill has been supported by corporate giants like Facebook and Google, both of which have been accused of working hand in hand with government intelligence agencies.
According to Schwartz: “Big corporations are supporting the bill, especially big corporations that make money off of violating people’s privacy. So it’s not a big surprise they’re in favor. But we’re seeing that the same way grassroots efforts were able to stop SOPA…And now, even the White House is coming out against this bill with strong language, much stronger than they used against SOPA.”
But the Obama administration’s sole objection to the bill seems to be that it doesn’t go far enough in coercing online entities to cooperate with the government. According to a CBS News report, the White House believes that “the bill fails to protect privacy and gives a pass to companies that do not secure networks critical to the nation’s security.”
In other words, whereas CISPA allows corporations to share previously confidential information with the government, the Obama administration would prefer legislation that forces companies to divulge personal information about their customers upon demand.
Legislation of that sort is already being prepared in the Senate, under Joe Lieberman (I-CT)and Susan Collins (R-ME), which would empower the White House to actively “determine security standards for companies with networks deemed critical to the nation’s cyber security.”
SOPA and ACTA, the government’s previous attempt at policing the internet, were shelved on January 20th of this year. And CISPA is even worse, according to Schwartz:
“…because it does allow the government to shut down websites for ‘national security’ reasons. It does have all the censorship problems the previous bill did. But it also goes much further and allows them to spy on people using the Internet, to get their personal data and e-mails. It’s an incredibly broad and dangerous bill.”
And SOPA was shut down in large part because of fierce corporate opposition. Wikipedia, Google and a host of other online companies loudly opposed both bills, which subsequently goaded the American people into action.
Not so with CISPA. One wonders if public opinion alone, unsupported by corporate money and lobbyists, will be enough to turn the tide and defeat this Orwellian piece of legislation.