If you’re in the habit of following tech news, or if you’re just concerned about your privacy at large, you’re probably already familiar with CISPA, or the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the bill has already made rounds in the past. Just last year, it was passed in the US House of Representatives, but failed to pass it in the Senate. Now, having cleared the house again a week ago, it’s poised to reignite the debate around privacy, the internet, tech companies and the government.
So what does the bill aim to do? In a broad way, one of its main goals is to increase cooperation between the government and private companies to deal with cyber threats. By sharing intelligence, the government could warn companies in the private sector about potential threats. Companies, on their part, would also be required to submit information that could help curb cyber threats at the federal level.
The issues concerning privacy arise mostly from the latter stipulation. Some opponents of the bill worry that the wording is too vague, leaving the door open for the government to subpoena private information about users. The effects could be far reaching in terms of what kind of information is shared. Logins and passwords could be compromised, as well as private communications like e-mail, text, chat logs. In essence, anything the government could define as essential information in dealing with a cyber threat.
The concern over privacy has made strange bedfellows of right wing libertarian groups, progressive organizations like the ACLU, and anarchist web collective Anonymous, who most recently called for a web blackout in order to protest the reemergence of the bill. The White House itself has been critical of the bill and has threatened to veto it over concerns that it could present too great of an intrusion on the lives of citizens.
What’s next for the bill? It will move into the Senate one more time, where it will be one step close to becoming law. If you’re interested in getting involved, contact your senator today and let them know where you stand on the bill.
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