Not sure what exactly this means? This broad and fuzzy term is buzzing in the political arena, as CISPA, or the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, has been reintroduced in the Senate. CISPA is all about beefing up our country’s cybersecurity, by allowing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to turn over private communication and related information back to the government without user’s permission or knowledge.
SOPA was essentially shelved due to widespread opposition from important others like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, AOL, Yahoo!, and a number of other internet companies (TechCrunch), along with President Obama himself. Many of us can recall the anti-SOPA postings that overwhelmed social networks, and the relief after learning that the legislation would not be passed. However, CISPA picks up where SOPA left off, and is a topic we should all become familiar with.
And you may be dismayed to find out that some of the largest ISPs– that you probably get your internet service from– support the bill. Companies such as Verizon, AT&T, Comcast (XFinity), Intel and Time Warner have openly declared their support of the bill. In their letter of support, AT&T seemed particularly excited about the legal gains that they would gain through the passing of CISPA:
“If enacted, this critically important legislation would enhance the Nation’s security by facilitating and adding legal certainty to sharing of critical cyber threat information both within the private sector and between the public and private sectors.”
According to Truth Out, CISPA would override current privacy laws like the Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act, and would grant judicial immunity for essentially violating user’s privacy, as information provided to the government (think agencies like the FBI and NSA) would be exempt from Freedom of Information (FIOA) requests, which give people the right to access information from the federal government.
To the AT&T customers out there– how do you feel knowing that your private activity would be monitored and made readily available to the government without your knowledge or consent? At any moment, you could become a threat to “cybersecurity”– which still is not a concrete premise or can easily be defined– and be punished by the law, while your ISP faces no consequences for violating your privacy. To think that everyone’s private communications will be constantly monitored and scrutinized does not seem to represent America’s values as a country.
Verizon users, you’re not off the hook either. In Verizon’s letter, they praise the idea of “cybersecurity without technology mandates or prescriptive rules.” But isn’t America all about the check and balance of power, bolstered by prescriptive rules? Without these rules, it seems like the government and these large corporations can run amuck, wielding a power over us little people. CISPA could turn us into a “police state,” and that is why we are taking a stand.