What Is CISPA?

CISPA falloutFor the last several years we’ve been hearing the acronym CISPA. What is CISPA and how would it affect us if it became law? CISPA is an important part of the debate between internet privacy concerns and national security.

Technically, CISPA stands for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act and its a proposed law that would allow for the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and technology and manufacturing companies. The stated aim of the bill is to help the U.S government investigate cyber threats and ensure the security of networks against cyberattacks.

It was initially filed by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) with 111 co-sponsors on November 30, 2011. In its initial life it was passed by the House six months later but died in the Senate after White House advisers argued that the bill lacks confidentiality and civil liberties safeguards and they advised him to veto it.

However, CISPA just wouldn’t go away when it was reintroduced in the House. Once again, it passed the House but died in the Senate.

Part of the problem that this bill has is that it has opponents from all parts of the spectrum. Among its opponents are advocates of Internet privacy and civil liberties, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties UnionFree PressFight for the Future, and Avaaz.org.

Various conservative and libertarian groups including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, TechFreedom, FreedomWorksAmericans for Limited GovernmentLiberty Coalition, and the American Conservative Union are also opposed to it.

In general, all of these groups feel that the bill has too few limits on how and when the government may monitor a private individual’s Internet browsing information. Additionally, they fear that such new powers could be used to spy on the general public rather than to pursue malicious hackers.

Of course, the bill has drawn favor from corporations and lobbying groups such as MicrosoftFacebookAT&TIBMApple and the United States Chamber of Commerce, which look on it as a simple and effective means of sharing important cyber threat information with the government.

The Senate has announced that they will write their own legislation rather than work with the HouseChinese Hackers bill. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, “believes that information sharing is a key component of cybersecurity legislation, but the Senate will not take up CISPA,” a committee staffer told HuffPost.

Even though the bill’s authors in the House, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), have added several amendments to alleviate privacy and civil liberty concerns, advocacy groups continue to insist that the bill is too broad. They also point out that the bill fails to Internet users’ data from spy agencies. The White House agrees and has threatened a veto.

There continues to be serious concerns with hackers following several high-profile attacks linked to China and members of the hacking group Anonymous. Unfortunately, America’s vital systems are highly vulnerable to cyberattacks that could cause economic loss, sustained blackouts or mass casualties. Top intelligence officials now say hackers pose a greater national security threat than terrorists.

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