Privacy vs. Piracy

As the hacker group Anonymous called for an Internet blackout reminiscent of the online protest held last year against the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed the House of Representatives on April 18, despite indications from the White House that President Obama would veto it. Then it was rejected by the Senate a week later. Rather than vote on CISPA, the Senate will draft its own version of the legislation, the Huffington Post reports.

“CISPA would allow for voluntary information sharing between private companies and the government in the event of a cyber attack,” explains PCMag. “If the government detects a cyber attack that might take down Facebook or Google, for example, they could notify those companies. At the same time, Facebook or Google could inform the feds if they notice unusual activity on their networks that might suggest a cyber attack.”

After originally backing the bill, both Facebook and Microsoft have since withdrawn their support, reports RT News.

CISPA, which was introduced this past February, was co-authored by Representative Mike Rodgers (R-Mich.) and Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.).

Representative Mike McCaul (R-Texas) invoked the recent Boston Marathon bombings to urge support for the bill. “In the case of Boston,” McCaul said, “there were real bombs … In this case, they are digital bombs, and these digital bombs are on their way,” continues RT News.

Several Massachusetts representatives, including Mike Capuano, Bill Keating, Joe Kennedy, Richard Neal, James McGovern, Niki Tsongas, Stephen Lynch, Ed Markey and John Tierney, all abstained from voting for or against the bill.

While CISPA is receiving more Congressional support than did either SOPA or PIPA, the bill has drawn its share of criticism as well. “CISPA is a poorly drafted bill that would provide a gaping exception to bedrock privacy law,” says Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit organization that studies Web and privacy issues. EFF contends that CISPA “would allow companies to bypass all existing privacy law to spy on communications and pass sensitive user data to the government.”

Despite opposition from Microsoft and Facebook, however, CISPA has enjoyed support from Verizon, IBM, Intel, HP, Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner Cable, reports PCMag.

Altogether, supporters of the bill have outspent CISPA’s opponents 38-1, according to Yahoo!News, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce contributing the proponderance ($163 million) of the industry’s $605 million lobby dollars.

“But this might be the most important takeaway of all,” Yahoo!News points out. “Despite being vastly outspent, the bill’s opponents still hold the advantage.”•

Author: Pete Redington

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