If you spend a lot of time online, especially on Facebook, you should definitely know what CISPA is. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act is that little piece of paper that allows/requires technology companies to share the information they’ve harvested from their customers with the United States Government. It’s meant to protect the United States government and private companies from cyber attacks. With terrorism infiltrated every aspect of our lives, the government wants access to more information and the ability to stop potential cyber attacks.

What It Is

In the event of a cyber attack, CISPA allows for voluntary sharing of information between private companies and the government. This is meant to go both ways, the government can notify Google or Facebook, for example, if they saw a cyber attack in the works, and those companies could notify the government if they saw unusual activity as well. This is a huge win for the government because private companies, including both Google and Facebook have much more information, and highly advanced means of gathering more.

When It Started

Last April, the House passed CISPA, and we heard a lot about this SOPA/PIPA-esque bill. The media coverage eventually died off when CISPA never made it through the Senate and the White House didn’t show any support.

Why It’s Controversial

It all comes down the fear of Big Brother. CISPA doesn’t give the most specific regulations about information sharing, so there’s a chance that all of those emails you allowed Google to read, or the illegal songs you let iTunes’ Genius know about might be fair game to the government. We’ve come a long way with Internet privacy, and CISPA has a clause in it that would override just about

Why It’s Back in the News

The congressmen responsible for the bill were catching a lot of backlash due to this vague wording, and introduced an amendment that would require the government to make any shared information anonymous. There are currently a number of amendments being proposed in an effort to sway the Senate and the White House. These include one that offers a lot of vague descriptions about information sharing for some kind of national security. After the mayhem with North Korea, and the crazy Boston Marathon scare, Americans and the media are on high alert. It’s back in the news because these amendments were recently added, and because the media is really good at capturing the public’s fear and glorifying it.

Who Supports It

CISPA is pretty different from SOPA and PIPA, despite the many similarities drawn by the media. There are many companies that actually show full support for this bill, including AT&T, IBM, Verizon, and more. At first, even Facebook showed support, but changed their tune mid-2012. It’s anyone’s guess whether this will actually gain enough support to pass, but it’s interesting enough that some major companies are supporting this open sharing of private information. Would customers choose different companies knowing that some are more willing to hand over their personal information? Or would they choose those companies because they seem more prepared to guard their company and customers against cyber attacks? We can’t be sure.

Most Recently

Finally, the real reason why people are arguing about this bill right now is the most recent amendment. There’s a chance that this bill will let employers REQUIRE their employees’ passwords to social media sites such as Facebook. A last-minute amendment was made to ban this, but was shut down by the House. While many of us monitor our own activities on social networks because of our jobs, the idea that we’d have to fork over our actual ACCESS to those networks is pretty preposterous.

Well, folks, there you have it. CISPA in summary.