Rate My Amendment, How CISPA Attacks the Constitution


Jason Koebler wrote an article Thursday for US News.com that discusses the dangers of the new Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. Yes, bear with me as we explore yet another acronym from the government, CISPA.

In his article, Koebler says, “…Experts say the danger level associated with CISPA depends on the answer to one question: Which Constitution amendment do you care about more, the First or the Fourth?”.

The idea behind CISPA according to the article and the congressmen who sponsored the bill is, that this will allow corporations and companies to share user information with the government without penalty or threat from general citizens or in other words, without getting sued by their users. Now, the government says this information is completely voluntary and, the companies are not required to share data. They are encouraged to share data only if it pertains to cyber-security and national security with the hope of stopping attacks from outside sources trying to steal information and other similar threats. The makers of the bill say it’s a two-way street.

In his article Koebler quotes Jim Dempsey, vice president for public policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, “ The government can say ‘you want our secret sauce, give us all your data, if you play ball with us, we’ll play ball with you.’”

Dempsey also goes on to say in the article that once the bill, “CISPA removes the legal barriers, it becomes harder for companies to resist those inducements, which can lead them to do things they’re uncomfortable with.”

From what I can gather from the article by Koebler, and the statements from the congressmen and Dempsey, this bill is opening a two-way street of “non-required” sharing of private users information and in doing so, skirts the Fourth Amendment. This leaves every private citizen who uses the internet vulnerable to the governments smooth talking proposals to the companies and corporations like Facebook, Verizon, AT&T, Microsoft and others.

Well. Now if that doesn’t box your ears and leave them ringing, I don’t know what will. I’m sorry, could you repeat the question? Which Amendment do I care about more? Why should that be entertained? 

Recently our government, via the FBI, put out a Request For Information regarding software that could be used to find “danger” words in social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as well as on search engines.  Is this the beginning of the end of free speech on the Internet?  Is this a violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy?

I’ve had a few conversations on this subject.  One friend pointed out that just as driving is not a right it is a privilege, so is the Internet.  We don’t have a right to use it, we choose to use it.  In doing so, we are subject to terms of use, just as we are subject to traffic laws.  While this makes sense to me, I can’t help but think about a few counter arguments.

If you are pulled over by the police while driving, can they just search your vehicle because they feel like it?  I don’t think they can.  Can the police show up on your doorstep and search your house, your phone, your laptop or your refrigerator?  Nope.  Please correct me if I am wrong on any of this, but it was my understanding that without evident probable cause or a warrant, the government in any form is not allowed to search and seize a private citizen or their property.  I would think that this would include intellectual property, no?  I know that might be a stretch, but if we can  sue others in court over the ownership of intellectual property, then does it not become just as tangible as your car?

What do you think about this? Do you think the government is over-reaching?  Is this legislation something we should support in the name of national security?  Is it in violation of the Constitution?

The Fourth Amendment states the following:  

AMENDMENT IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

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About kendra75

Freelance journalist, researcher, history buff and full time student.

Posted on April 17, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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