CISPA: The House passed it a week ago, but most don't know what it is

CISPA: a needed addition to the government’s arsenal to investigate cyber threats, or just another weapon it will use to invade our privacy? Photo: Times.MN

TEXAS, April 25, 2013—The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, more commonly called, CISPA, is a proposed law that would allow the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and technology and manufacturing companies. The Bill, known as H.R. 624, was first introduced in 2012; and then reintroduced to Congress in its current form by US Representative Mike Rogers, on February 13, 2013. It was passed by the House of Representatives on April 18th.

Proponents of CISPA say that it is a needed amendment to the National Security Act of 1947, which does not cover cybercrime, and a powerful weapon that the government can use against the growing threat of cyber-terrorism from countries such as China and Iran. The bill’s purpose, they claim, is to allow federal security agencies to notify tech and manufacturing companies of any detected cyber-attack that may do them harm, and in turn, allow those companies to inform those agencies in kind. 

Critics of CISPA, however, don’t buy it. They say that CISPA is an affront to American civil liberties, and the privacy of its citizens. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an international non-profit digital rights group based in the U.S., “the bill grants broad new powers, allowing companies to identify and obtain “threat information” by looking at your private information.”

EFF also says that “it (the bill) is written so broadly that it allows companies to hand over large swaths of personal information to the government with no judicial oversight—effectively creating a “cybersecurity” loophole in all existing privacy laws.”

Which means, according to EFF, that “Under CISPA, any company can “use cybersecurity systems to identify and obtain cyber threat information to protect the rights and property” of the company, and then share that information with third parties, including the government, so long as it is for “cybersecurity purposes.” “

The bill’s sponsors, Representatives Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger disagree with EFF’s assessment that the language in the bill is too broad, but introduced an amendment that would require the government to anonymize any data it turns over to a private company. However, the White House has threatened to veto the bill, in part, because it does not require private companies to do the same and anonymize the data they hand over to the government.

However, and this comes from the “taken with a grain of salt” file, an April 24th report published by RT (Russia Today) posits that “The federal government is already using a secretive cybersecurity program to monitor online traffic and enforce CISPA-like data sharing between Internet service providers and the Department of Defense.”

CISPA now moves to the Senate, where, it can be accepted in its current form and passed or defeated, or the Senators can write their own bill, that, depending on how much it differs from the original, may or may not have to be reconciled in the House. But no matter what happens, you can be sure that I’ll keep you posted.

Have some thoughts on CISPA? Share them in the comments below.

 


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Derek Crockett

Derek Crockett is a retired Engineering Technician with a love for technology, and industry experience ranging from the production of printed wire boards to the manufacture of semi-conductor production tools. Derek is a resident of Copperas Cove, Texas, and has worked for many of the world’s leading technology companies such as Solectron, Samsung, AMD, and Applied Materials. He now writes technology related news articles and reviews at tekknotes.com

 

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