CISPA (also known as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) has been slowly but surely raising quite a bit of hubbub in recent weeks. While the legislation was introduced in November of 2011, it didn’t garner significant media attention until the bill approached the House of Representatives for approval in April. Indeed, some would argue it still hasn’t received the attention it deserves from the general public, even though the bill passed in the House on April 26th and has since moved on to the Senate.
The intent of CISPA is to protect the United States from parties who attempt to gain unauthorized access to Internet networks and systems. Those who believe in the bill view it as a way to protect private or government information and safeguard the public from cyber threats, whereas many who oppose it are concerned over its lack of safeguards for civil liberties.
To me, the language of CISPA as it presently stands raises a number of questions that have not yet been satisfactorily answered. For example, who is to police the amount of information shared between the government and private companies — and how will they do so? What exactly qualifies as a cyber threat to national security? Where will liability ultimately lie?
Perhaps most troubling of all: Is the lack of discussion of CISPA an indication that we are starting to view privacy as a privilege, not an inherent right? My Marvel-loving heart can’t help but compare this to the epic 2006 – 2007 Civil War storyline and its “Whose Side Are You On?” tagline.
Political parties and many public and private organizations have stated whether they support or oppose CISPA as it currently stands. In the House of Representatives, the vote to approve CISPA was strongly partisan: of the 248 votes for CISPA, 206 were from Republicans and 42 were from Democrats. The 168 votes against CISPA came from 140 Democrats and 28 Republicans.
Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T, Verizon and other telecommunications and tech companies have all voiced their support of CISPA. Trade groups like the United States Chamber of Commerce and the Internet Security Alliance have also thrown their weight behind the bill.
Individuals and groups who stand against CISPA include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Reporters Without Borders, the Constitution Project, TechFreedom, Mozilla and Ron Paul. Mozilla’s head of Privacy and Public Policy Department released a statement to Forbes that started by saying “While we wholeheartedly support a more secure Internet, CISPA has a broad and alarming reach that goes far beyond Internet security…” and “we hope the Senate takes the time to fully and openly consider these issues.”
Of course, this newest iteration of the Machiavellian debate regarding whether the ends justify the means may be for naught, considering President Obama’s threat to veto CISPA without changes in the bill’s privacy protections.