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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Protests Against CISPA

Since last week, a number of groups have started out protests against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act – the controversial legislation which replaced SOPA.

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The legislation in question was first introduced in November and is scheduled to enter the US House of Representatives for votes this week. Some privacy groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and others expressed their point of view, claiming that this piece of legislation could allow online companies and government authorities to collect data about Internet users (i.e., pretty much everyone) under the pretext of Internet security. Moreover, the law would ignore existing protections imposed by the Federal Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, among other privacy acts.

The purpose of the group is to stop the bill, or at least initiate amendments to it by arranging online protests, like it happened with SOPA and ACTA. The group hopes that supporters and lawmakers will join the protests too. Moreover, they have launched a Twitter campaign to let lawmakers know about the proposed law and the threats it implies.

Their concern is the information-sharing component of the law, which would allow companies to hand over any kind of personal data to the government without any judicial oversight. In addition, it will ignore any privacy acts and requirements to obtain court orders to access people’s personal data.

In response, supporters of the bill point out that it would improve cybersecurity by helping Internet service providers and large companies such as Google or Facebook to gather and share threat data with the authorities.

Like with SOPA, the language used in the law is very confusing – for instance, it doesn’t have any provisions forbidding the companies from tracking private e-mail messages, chat messages and Facebook postings under the pretext of cybersecurity. The worst part is that users aren’t even given the chance to sue firms for collecting that kind of information for the government.

In other words, the major concern about CISPA is that it’s too broad, defining the data that private companies are able to share with the government in an almost unlimited way. According to many experts, the data collection and sharing permitted under the proposed bill would rather enable surveillance than serve any cybersecurity purpose.

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