Spying Bill Becomes Law in the US

The United States government has a long history of not being shy about cracking down on privacy rights. Recently, it has done so again thanks to the passage of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

American privacy was dealt with yet another blow recently. CISA has become law.

The bill was attached to a critical spending bill as a rider. The legislation passed both houses and was signed off by President Barack Obama.

The bill received widespread criticism from companies and civil rights groups alike. Earlier, Gizmodo offered an explanation of what the bill would do:

Cybersecurity in the US is a mess right now. The problem isn’t the general idea of information-sharing—it’s the execution. The language in the bill is so broad that it could undermine existing privacy laws. Even the Department of Homeland Security said CISA could undermine the Stored Communications Act, which protects personal data from undue government prying.

Aside from screwing with existing privacy laws, CISA has no safeguards to prevent companies from sharing irrelevant personal information, just vague wording about the need for a “cyber threat indicator” to give up the digital goods.

Companies won’t need to redact any personal signifying information in the data they send, unless they have proof that it the personal data is NOT related to the “threat.” Since CISA protects companies from legal liability for the data they pass along, there isn’t any incentive to redact anything.

“The sponsors set up a test that virtually guarantees there won’t be any serious effort to weed out unrelated information,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told me. Wyden is a vocal opponent of CISA, and he’s not done fighting it, despite today’s vote. Wyden spearheaded the campaign against SOPA and PIPA, and he’s hoping for a similar rallying moment online.

The question then becomes: now that this is now law, where to next? Probably the only thing left is for this law to be challenged in courts. Already, there were numerous lawsuits against the spying activities of the US government. One of the lawsuits that the Electronic Frontier Foundation is involved in is the Jewel vs. NSA case. The case is already challenging the governments dragnet spying program.

If the US wanted to shed the reputation of being hostile towards privacy, this does nothing to curtail it. It does make one wonder if privacy is even a thing in the US at this point.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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