A new law called CSIPA could permanently change the way the Internet and the U.S. Government would interact. CISPA directly affects your online privacy. Should you be concerned?
If CISPA is passed into law, the government will gain direct and unregulated access to your personal online information.
Since the Internet’s rise, the federal government has generally taken a hands-off position concerning the online activities of American citizens. But that’s all subject to change with CISPA—the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act—which already cleared the U.S. House of Representatives on April 26th and is now awaiting discussion in the U.S. Senate.
What CISPA Will Allow Government Agencies to Do: CISPA will enable easier and faster cooperation between government counter-terrorism forces (such as the National Security Agency) and Internet providers – as well as social media networks and other web-related companies.
Under CISPA, outfits like the NSA will be able to review any online data generated by U.S. citizens, without following federal wiretapping guidelines (which they’re currently required to do when gathering data).
Like SOPA, CISPA is hotly debated. The battle lines have been drawn. Which side are you on?
CISPA Supporters: Legislators, Movie Studios, IBM, Facebook
Their Position: They say CISPA is absolutely necessary for waging an effective war against terrorism and protecting America’s intellectual property – to help stop the pirating of movies and other media.
The Motion Picture Association is a huge proponent of the bill. And so is Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and authored the CISPA legislation:
“In just the last few years, criminals have stolen enough intellectual property from defense contractors that would be equivalent to 50 times the print collection of the U.S. Library of Congress,” Rogers explains, “(Criminals are) literally stealing jobs and our future. We also have countries that are engaged in activities and have capabilities that have the ability to break computer networks…You can’t just reboot. It means your system is literally broken. Those kinds of disruptions can be catastrophic when you think about the financial sector, or the energy sector, or our command and control elements for all our national security apparatus.”
Against CISPA: The Obama Administration, Microsoft, Verizon, the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
Their Position: CISPA’s opposition claims the bill will be used to create a “Big Brother” environment in which the government will be given absolutely free rein to spy on U.S. citizens, even if the need for that surveillance has not been legally established. Microsoft recently dropped support of CISPA for privacy concerns.
CISPA’s wording is left intentionally broad and vague. According to the White House, CISPA “effectively treats domestic cybersecurity as an intelligence activity and thus, significantly departs from longstanding efforts to treat the Internet and cyberspace as civilian spheres,” which means that the Administration thinks the federal government should stay out of online matters as much as possible.
Online Communication Breakdown
For their part, many communication providers already cooperate with government agencies. On various occasions, Verizon and AT&T have supplied billions of customer records to the NSA. Verizon has also freely shared its customer data with the FBI – without being ordered by a court to do so.
How Will CISPA Affect You?
If CISPA passes and cyber surveillance begins, the average Internet user would probably never know they have been monitored unless they’re arrested or prosecuted. It’s unclear how and to what degree CISPA’s passage would affect the business of developing websites, or the creation of any other online content.
Does CISPA Have a Chance of Becoming Law?
At first glance, the answer seems doubtful. CISPA faces a rockier road ahead in the Senate than it did in the House, and even if passed by the Senate, the Obama Administration has stated its intention to veto the legislation.
The nature of online privacy remains an ongoing concern. Recent years have brought a widespread erosion of online privacy, whether that trust has been violated by the criminal efforts of professional hackers or through the sloppy neglect of online providers themselves, who have not always safeguarded their customers’ information. It remains to be seen if America’s counter-terrorism forces will take part in an even wider erosion—one designed to protect American security at the expense of online privacy.
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