A few months back, the Internet, with all its bells and whistles and cats and things, did something many thought was impossible: It beat the government. following the blackout of sites such as Reddit and Wikipedia, pressure from tens of millions of Americans led to the breakdown of support for SOPA, the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act. As many expected, however, the struggle to destroy SOPA was only one battle in the war to defend online privacy.
Enter CISPA, otherwise known as the law everyone’s too worn-out to fight.
CISPA, or the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, seems pretty innocuous at first glance. the bill seeks to amend the National Security Act of 1947, which would essentially allow government intelligence agencies to share information regarding cyberthreats with private corporations to better defend themselves and their users. These companies wouldn’t be forced to share private information, like user data, with the government. So far, so good, right?
Unfortunately not. while CISPA doesn’t explicitly require companies to share their data with the government, it allows them to bypass all existing privacy laws if they wish. Furthermore, the details of the information they share wouldn’t ever have to be disclosed to the public, meaning that, if Facebook decided to send your private messages or usage habits to the Feds, they wouldn’t ever be obligated to let you know.
CISPA’s list of supporters is wearyingly extensive – AT&T, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Verizon are among its top corporate advocates, which shouldn’t surprise you in the slightest because of how much user data these guys have to leverage. Meanwhile, opponents such as the ACLU, Reporters Without Borders and TCP have expressed their deep unease with and firm opposition to the bill as it’s currently written, arguing that its vagaries could lead to a significant degradation of digital privacy.
What’s perhaps the most disappointing feature of the bill is the fact that Congress is refusing to hear the voices of the people it was elected to represent, and is instead bending the ear to corporate interest yet again. It tried to increase its own powers over a “lawless” Internet under the guise of eliminating piracy with SOPA, and are now using the ambiguous threat of “cyberterrorism” to achieve the same ends.
And this begs a serious and unsettling question – if petitions, letters to representatives, protests, and blackouts aren’t enough to save the integrity of what is arguably the engine of the 21st century, what is?