CISPA Clears House, Online Privacy Advocates Urge Action
The US House of Representatives voted in favor of passing HR 624, also known as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), earlier today by a vote of 288 to 127, drawing intense criticism from online privacy advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as well as from within the White House.
The bill, touted as a response to cyber-security threats, would allow corporations to divulge information on their consumers to other companies and the US government, even if customers have signed a contract with that company explicitly forbidding that action.
If passed in the Senate, CISPA would grant corporate entities and government agencies the right to share information gathered by websites on its users without a warrant or legal oversight as well as without the user’s consent or knowledge in what the ACLU has described as a “loophole in all existing privacy laws.”
After failing in Congress last year in the wake of the SOPA/PIPA protests, the bill was reintroduced to the House by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on Feb. 13. On its reintroduction, Rogers stressed that the bill was not intended to be a means of monitoring the public, and that “Silicon Valley CEOs” and those that are “in the know” support CISPA while labelling critics of the bill as “14-year-olds in their basement.”
“This is not a surveillance bill,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who authored the bill, said during the floor debate. “It does not allow the national security agencies or the Department of Defense or our military organizations to monitor our domestic networks.”
Critics of the bill have countered that this iteration of CISPA is virtually identical to the last, with only minor changes in language regarding oversight and slight limitations in use having been added. Mark Jaycox of the EFF, a digital rights advocacy group, said that the bill has failed to address “a lot of the core privacy complaints.”
“These amendments are window dressing,” said Jaycox. “Companies collect this information every day — but they should not be encouraged with broad legal immunities to send it all to the government.”
While the bill has received support from companies like Verizon, IBM, and Comcast, other names in the tech field like Google and Facebook have so far been reticent to voice approval of the bill in its current form. Others, such as Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, have vocally opposed the bill. Organizations such as FreePress.net have sent out emails urging people to write to congressman and ensure that the bill is defeated in the Senate.
According to Jaycox, the Democratically-controlled Senate may block this version of CISPA just as they did last year, possibly due to the fact that the Senate is currently drafting an online privacy bill of their own.
“There are some similar information-sharing bills with stronger privacy protections in the Senate,” said Jaycox.
The White House has also been critical of the legislation’s wording in regards to privacy safeguards, and, as indicated by a statement released on Tuesday, would likely veto the bill if passed in its current form.
“Citizens have a right to know that corporations will be held accountable — and not granted immunity — for failing to safeguard personal information adequately,” said the statement.