Computing Columnist: What's CISPA and why do I care?
Haven't I always said the government is twitchy about the Internet because there's no real way to control it? Not to mention tax it!
What better way to get "the American people" to support some form of control than by making sure we're scared of cyber threats?
So right now, this week, the Senate is debating a version of CISPA. What's CISPA? "The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is a proposed law in the United States which would allow for the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and certain technology and manufacturing companies. The stated aim of the bill is to help the U.S government investigate cyber threats and ensure the security of networks against cyberattack." (Wikipedia)
Remember the Stop Online Piracy Act, and the enormous outpouring of disapproval that derailed it? Critics
saw it as a door to our privacy, online activities, an even online commerce that, once opened, would only get bigger and wider and more open, allowing the government into our individual (as opposed to aggregate) online activity if and when it wanted to investigate.
Rather than going for online piracy this time, they're knocking at a door more likely to open a crack because large companies are tired of cyberattacks--essentially, having their data hacked by black hats--and individuals see the danger of having their networks disrupted. Earlier this summer we wrote about the FBI finally abandoning its "safe servers," and the small but bothersome outages this caused some Internet users.
So far, "CISPA has garnered favor from corporations and lobbying groups such as Microsoft, Facebook and the United States Chamber of Commerce, which look on it as a simple and effective means of sharing important cyber threat information with the government." (Wikipedia)
As one of my tech email updates relates, "CISPA--which already passed the House--was awful. Government got potential access to all your personal data with no restrictions on what they could do with it.But the Senate bill has some strong privacy protections... for now. The problem is, a group of anti-privacy Senators and the NSA are pushing amendments to remove these protections and bring the Senate bill closer to CISPA."
It's probably not going to stop, even if enough citizens get fired up over this attempt and call their Senators. But if this kind of thing concerns you, you might want to do it anyway--call your Senator--and at least express concern about the door opening too wide. The consequences of that are unpredictable, but few of them look very good.