US Government to Reintroduce CISPA

By Drew Wilson

Reports are surfacing that the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is going to be re-introduced next week. The last iteration was delayed partly due to the widespread opposition.

Slashdot is pointing to an article on The Hill which says that the controversial bill would be re-introduced and unchanged from a previous attempt to pass it.

Slashdot also referred to a Techdirt article which explained in the previous battle that the bill was worse than SOPA because it included provisions that would go towards enforcement of intellectual property. While we don’t know just how identical the bill is at this stage, we also happen to know that the mention of intellectual property was also removed part way through the debates. So, it’s unclear whether or not this version will be with or without the anti-piracy provision.

In an updated version of the bill analysis, some of the most controversial aspects were removed from the bill, but it left several big problems behind.

ZDNet was also talking about CISPA’s return saying that it is being considered the “privacy killer“. From that report:

It would have effectively given the green card to American private-sector businesses to hand ordinary citizen data (and therefore potential intelligence) back to the U.S. government in order to thwart primarily cyber-attacks—but also what could potentially be terrorist attacks.

This, as you might expect, caused an uproar among the online community who believed that private companies could effectively hand over data—such as cell phone records, email records, and even Facebook and Twitter data—directly into the hands of U.S. intelligence.

PCMag is also covering this latest development:

CISPA would allow for voluntary information-sharing between private companies and the government in the event of a cyber attack. Last year, backers argued that it’s necessary to protect the U.S. against cyber attacks from countries like China and Iran, but opponents said that it would allow companies to easily hand over users’ private information to the government.

“This is clearly not a theoretical threat – the recent spike in advanced cyber attacks against the banks and newspapers makes that crystal clear,” Rep. Rogers said in a statement. “American businesses are under siege. We need to provide American companies the information they need to better protect their networks from these dangerous cyber threats. It is time to stop admiring this problem and deal with it immediately. Congress urgently needs to pass our cyber threat information sharing bill to protect our national security, our economy, and U.S. jobs.”

Rep. Ruppersberger agreed, and said “we need to do everything we can to enable American companies to defend themselves against these devastating cyber attacks. Our bill does just that by permitting the voluntary sharing of critical threat intelligence while preserving important civil liberties.”

One thing that needs to be pointed out that this is definitely the first major US development on the digital rights front. It will also likely be the first test for civil and digital rights activists to mobilize people. Some are suggesting that this will become law no matter what happens, however, SOPA’s passage seemed like a sure thing until there were mass protests that erupted both on the streets and online in an unprecedented fashion which ultimately caused the bill to be shelved. So, it has happened before that civil protest stopped legislation in the past. Unfortunately, privacy is also a much more complex thing than simply the censorship of websites based on accusations. Already, the US has warrantless wiretapping which was supported by both the Bush and Obama administrations, so trying to fight CISPA will likely be a tougher task on the civil rights front.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks with the debate surrounding this bill.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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