Our guest blogger is Corina Simonelli, an intern with Enough
On Monday, several civil rights and online privacy organizations–including the American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)–launched a “Stop Cyber Spying” week of action to counter H.R. 3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). CISPA, sponsored by Reps. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), is an information sharing amendment to the National Security Act of 1947. The bill is aimed at improving communications between government agencies and private companies in order to enhance cyber security measures. However, the bill has come under fire recently from privacy rights organizations who claim the bill opens the door to massive violations of individual privacy rights.
The week of action includes online petitions, letters to representatives and a tweeting campaign. The ACLU provided tweet suggestions such as:
@MyRepresentative Does the military need to know I send my Mom lolcat pictures? #CongressTMI Stop #CISPA
@MyReprsentative, I get lab and test results from my Dr online. Please don’t give the govt access too! #CongressTMI Stop #CISPA”
An online petition on avaaz.org has garnered over 682,396 worldwide signatures urging Congress to vote against the bill.
Objection to the measure focuses on its vague language, which allows private companies to give government agencies- — for example the NSA — confidential customer information if there is thought to be a cyber threat. The bill loosely defines a cyber threat as:
“[E]fforts to degrade, disrupt, or destroy such systems or networks [of a government or private entity] or efforts to gain unauthorized access to a system or network, including efforts to gain such unauthorized access to steal or misappropriate private or government information.”
Under these regulations, private information, including personal conversations and emails, could be shared without a warrant and without the knowledge or consent of an individual, effectively bypassing previous measures for privacy and transparency. As Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Peter Swire has explained, the broad definitions “enable companies to share detailed information about their customers with the government and other companies, without telling their customers, and without a close link to actual cyber-threats.”
On Tuesday, the Obama Administration joined with these groups in voicing opposition to privacy restricting measures. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a
statement to The Hill newspaper:
“[I]nformation sharing provisions must include robust safeguards to preserve the privacy and civil liberties of our citizens. Legislation without new authorities to address our nation’s critical infrastructure vulnerabilities, or legislation that would sacrifice the privacy of our citizens in the name of security, will not meet our nation’s urgent needs.”
Clearly, CISPA does not provide the privacy protections the White House seeks. Although some revisions have been made in response to this criticism, many organizations believe the bill is still dangerously vague in its handling of privacy rights.
In a speech Tuesday, CISPA co-sponsor Rep. Rogers said that this week’s outcries were mere turbulence in passing this very controversial bill. But the week of action shows that many Americans believe their 4th Amendment rights are much more than turbulence to be ignored. The bill will be voted on next week, along with many others during Cybersecurity Week at the U.S. Congress.