A Positive Side to CISPA?


CISPA - The solution is the problem

CISPA – The solution is the problem (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

In an opinion article for Digital Trends, Andrew Couts, points out some positive information( in his opinion) about the passing of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.  His article, Five things everyone needs to know about CISPAstates that specific amendments made prior to the passing by the House, have actually improved the bill.Couts says these are the five things people should be aware of.

1.  CISPA has nothing to do with SOPA.

2.  CISPA got better with amendments.3.  …But it’s still fundamentally broken.

4.  CISPA is not the only cybersecurity bill in Congress.

5.  CISPA likely won’t pass the Senate. (unchanged)

The first point Couts makes is this, “CISPA has to do with privacy. SOPA dealt with censorship. CISPA threatens our Fourth Amendment rights — the right against “unreasonable searches and seizures” — because it allows businesses to hand over a staggering amount of information about us to the federal government with impunity. SOPA threatened our First Amendment rights — the right to free speech — because it would have allowed the federal government to block access to websites using the same practices employed in oppressive regimes, like Iran and China.”

His second point?  “A total of 11 amendments were added to the bill, some of which made positive changes to the types of information that may be shared, and how the government may legally use that information.”  He continues on to list some of the major changes made in the bill and discusses the most notable change, the Quayle amendment that he summarizes in his article.

“One added provision, known as the Quayle amendment, has raised the most number of eyebrows. It outlines the purposes for which the government may use information collected from businesses. They are as follows:

  1. cybersecurity;
  2. investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes;
  3. protection of individuals from the danger of death or physical injury;
  4. protection of minors from physical or psychological harm; and
  5. protection of the national security of the United States

Couts goes on to discuss why he thinks the bill is still flawed and said, “For starters, the bill still does not provide any limits on the information shared under CISPA to be passed along to shadowy organizations, like the National Security Agency, which has essentially no public oversight. Furthermore, CISPA still allows data collected under the bill to be used for vague purposes of “national security,” a term that could mean almost anything.”

He also informs his readers that there are two other bills currently in Congress, one brought forth by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called SECURE IT Act or S. 2151.  The other bill is presented by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), called Cybersecurity Act of 2012 or S. 2105.  Couts explains that both other bills share the problem of broad language like CISPA and that it’s possible in the end that CISPA could be combined with one of the two bills.  Couts reports that currently, Lieberman’s bill has the support of the White House and Senate Democrats.  This is significant since the President has threatened to veto CISPA if certain changes do not take place.

The veto issue is also part of Couts last point, that CISPA will not likely pass in the Senate.  He includes the caveat of change.  If certain requirements outlined by the President take place, and the bill can be hashed out to everyone’s liking, it may pass into law.  Considering the track record, of the two major political parties agreeing on anything, as being less than stellar, I’m personally not going to hold my breath.  That doesn’t mean I’m not deeply concerned about the bill.  After all, it did pass the House with a 248-168 vote and had over 100 cosponsors, which is cause for serious concern for all those who use the internet, and more specifically, investigative journalists.

Overall, I don’t see any real positive change in the language of the bill.  I’m concerned for investigative journalists for a very good reason.  The nature of their work.  The “watchdogs” of government may have to begin re-thinking the methods they use to get information online.  I’m skeptical that should the government get wind of an investigation through the abilities provided by the CISPA bill, they would just let journalists go about their job undeterred.  We may end up seeing more instances like what happened to the two journalists working for USA Today.  You can read more about their story here.

So what’s the take-away?  Well, as Couts points out, it’s a long process and we should all be willing to accept that fact, and keep paying attention no matter how long it takes for a decision to be made on CISPA.  Journalists especially, should be paying close attention.  If you thought there were problems with the use of anonymity before, just wait and see what happens when the government, at will, snoops around your information and starts to monitor you under the guise of national security.  (Especially if your story targets the government.)  As a computer scientist friend of mine casually suggested recently, getting to know the ins-and-outs of encryption might become a valuable investment in your career.

About kendra75

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

Posted on May 2, 2012, in Legal issues and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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