Today you will notice many sites have gone dark in opposition to a law proposed in the United States House Of Representatives called CISPA.
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act enables private companies and the United States government to exchange information related to internet security issues including private information to prevent cyberattacks, without public disclosure or the need for warrants. And this is of course where the idiom in the subject line of this post comes in.
In order to prevent cyberattacks and attacks against the national security of the United States everyone’s information would be exchanged and stored on multiple computers for analysis, opening this information up to misuse, abuse or theft.
This bill enables the distribution of information that you don’t want made public, from private posts and email to your internet browsing information, without your knowledge or consent. And it also contains an exemption from liability, reducing an individual’s ability to sue if something were to go wrong during this exchange of information.
The proponents of the bill are also relying on people’s inability to understand that the definitions used in this bill may extend the coverage of this bill beyond “cyber attacks”, the term “national security of the United States” having been linked to that country’s commercial interests in past legislation.
Your choice to purchase something outside of the United States could cause your information to be taken under the premise that the purchase was a threat to the American intellectual property owners because the product might not be authentic or authorized by an American company.
Having unfortunately been subjected to counterfeit DVDs in the past via eBay, my personal, private information could be collected and distributed. And because of this, an act beyond my control, I could face further victimization without legal recourse to prevent it.
Yes, some intellectual property provisions have been removed from the bill but what’s to stop them from re-introducing them ? They have no qualms re-introducing warrantless searches, over and over again and warrants do not significantly impede their current efforts to stop crime on the internet. And I have yet to see and evidence substantiating the claim that privacy is a hindrance to law enforcement, so why are these sentiments remaining in Government ?
I suspect internet security firms want to be funded by the public and are doing their best to present these bills as solutions to politicians that have no idea of what is involved.
Vic Toews, for example, is proof positive that politicians can be severely illiterate when it comes to technology.
In February 2012 this Canadian politician had introduced a bill in Parliament that he had not read in its entirety, claiming that it would address child pornography. And he had been so well convinced that it would that he actually accused opponents of this legislation of standing with child pornographers, in the House of Commons of all places.
Even joint statements from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and her provincial counterparts had failed to convince him that there were serious issues with the bill and it took a severe public backlash to get him to actually review what he was proposing.
This isn’t the time for half-baked, open ended legislation that can be exploited by the very criminals that these bills are trying to address. And it is rather stupid to believe criminals would not use arguments about the constitutionality of these laws in their defense.
Opposition has been strong within the United States and a White House petition has apparently convinced the President to threaten to veto the bill, “as currently crafted” in a April 16th, 2013 statement (pdf).
Another petition for Americans and non American alike is also available at Avaaz. There are currently over 800,000 signatories on this petition.