By: Lauren Saccone
Just when you thought it was safe to go on the internet, the government is once again working on legislation that could destroy privacy online forever. When the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was voted down after dramatic and vehement protests both online and off, internet users rejoiced. The rejection of the law was seen as a blow for freedom and privacy. But a new law is proving even worse – and has already passed through the House.
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was originally supposed to go before the House of Representatives on Friday. But the controversial bill was rushed, and ended up being passed on Thursday. The act now only has to be approved by the Senate to go into action – and critics say that CISPA would effectively spell the end of privacy on the internet.
Ostensibly created to keep an eye on internet threats to national security and reduce the amount of cyber crimes, CISPA actually serves to eliminate the privacy rights of internet users. If CISPA is passed, companies would be able to share employee’s personal information with the government. Internet providers would be able to read consumer’s Emails if they suspected any illegal activity, and share them with officials. Furthermore, the government would be able to investigate the online activity of any person on the flimsiest of pretexts.
Claiming their desire to limit the reach of the bill, the House also passed several amendments to CISPA. Now CISPA allows information to be gathered on people relation to cybersecurity crimes, as well as protection of children and individuals. All of these are excellent goals on their own, but under the blanket of CISPA, they simply give the government and companies free reign to investigate the personal life of any individual with no regard for privacy.
“This bill is so broadly written that companies can read Emails and communications and pass them along to the government with no warrant, with no judicial oversight whatsoever,” Trevor Timm, a member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told New York Daily News.
Others claim that the bill fails in its primary goals. Critics say it is so broadly written that it would succeed only in a complete violation of privacy rights, while failing to protect anyone from perceived cyber threats. The American Civil Liberties Union has condemned the bill and what it means for privacy online.
Supporters of the bill are jubilant over its success, and hoping for a speedy trip through the Senate to see CISPA finally realized. House Speaker John Boehner was among the most fervent of its supporters. Representative Dutch Ruppersberger saw the passing of the bill as a triumphant example of officials crossing party lines in support of a common goal.
“This is not just a victory on the House floor. This is a victory for America,” Ruppersberger told reporters. “Our nation is one step closer to making a real difference protecting our country from a catastrophic cyber attack. This shows what can happen when Democrats and Republicans work together for the good of our country.”
The Obama administration has publicly stated that the bill will be vetoed if it crosses the President’s desk. But without public protests similar to those surrounding SOPA, CISPA could very well end up changing the internet – and destroying the nature of online privacy – forever.
[Pic via Flickr - Gage Skidmore]